SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 3, 2013

Walk raises awareness of domestic violence

By Stephanie Francis
Gordon College News Service

---- — SALEM — Judy Currier still remembers when her 29-year-old cousin Kim was beaten to death by her husband.

Nine months later, Currier and her family formed a team in Healing Abuse Working for Change’s fundraising walk, in memory of her cousin.

“We walk as a family,” said Currier, 66. “We do it as a way to stay connected to Kim.”

On Sunday, HAWC will host its 21st walk/run and community awareness event. The event starts at Salem Common, and registration begins at 9 a.m., with the walk/run starting at noon.

HAWC was started in 1978 by a group of women who applied for a grant to stop the abuse they witnessed. Thirty-five years later, HAWC provides legal advice, hospital advocacy, an emergency hotline and children’s services for those suffering from abuse.

Paula Gomez Stordy, HAWC’s director of community relations, began working with the organization in 1998, when they collaborated with North Shore Medical Center to create a domestic violence program to train their workers on how to deal with patients who are, or who they suspect to be, victims of abuse.

“I saw it as a great opportunity for the hospital to educate the staff,” Gomez Stordy said.

The partnership has lasted; North Shore Medical Center has even provided sponsorship for past walks.

According to janedoe.org, the Massachusetts coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men in Massachusetts in 2010 experienced sexual violence victimization. Between 2003 and 2012, the organization identified 231 victims of domestic violence-related homicides.

Peabody police Sgt. Sheila McDaid has participated in the walk since 1999. As a former member of the department’s domestic violence unit, McDaid doesn’t see the issue going away.

“It really doesn’t matter what your background is,” she said. Domestic violence “affects everyone.”

HAWC provides free domestic services between the 23 cities and towns on the North Shore. The hotline and legal advocacy are the most used resources, according to Gomez Stordy.

“Usually, people call the hotline if they are not safe at home,” Gomez Stordy said. “Legal advocacy is used a lot. They provide support to anyone who needs it.”

Most of the lawyers in the legal program work pro bono. Since a majority are volunteers, HAWC uses the fundraising money as a means to prevent funding loss. Typically, the organization receives a two-year federal grant from the government, but funding is competitive, and this year, they did not receive it.

The number of walkers has grown significantly since the walk’s first year.

“Some people come out for prevention, other people come out to honor survivors, and others come to pay respect to those who have lost their lives to domestic violence,” Gomez Stordy said. “It is because of the community that we can fix these issues.”