Keene Sentinel, Saturday, November 8, 2014
Hopelessness saps the strength of domestic violence victims as they try to survive. But they don’t have to do it alone.
Verizon Wireless, the Silent Witness National Initiative, Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention and the Cheshire County Sheriff’s office banded together recently to help promote awareness of domestic violence and offer those suffering silently to find the help — and the strength — they need to break the cycle of hopelessness and lack of control.
At the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church on Court Street, members from those organizations gathered recently to decorate the sheriff’s vehicle with messages about domestic violence. Such phrases included: “HopeLine,” “No More Silence, It’s Time To Talk” and and “MCVP,” for the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention. The messages are permanent, leaving only wear and tear to remove them.
“What’s a bigger billboard than our own cars?” Sheriff Eli Rivera asked.
Rivera said he came up with the idea of using his vehicle as a billboard for domestic violence awareness after other organizations had previously used his vehicle to send messages combating substance abuse. Rivera contacted Robin P. Christopherson, executive director of the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention. She loved the idea.
“Eli had emailed me and said, ‘Why can’t we do this for MCVP?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, why can’t we?’ ” Christopherson said.
Christopherson wanted to use the slogan “No More Silence, It’s Time to Talk” for the vehicle. She called Michael Murphy, public relations manager for Verizon Wireless across six states in New England, which runs the HopeLine initiative. The company has provided numerous grants to groups helping fight domestic violence and runs a program that allows anyone to donate an unused or broken cellphone to Verizon, which recycles and refurbishes each one and donates the phones to organizations that fight domestic violence, which in turn can give them to their clients.
He said the phones can be used for more than just emergency calls. Since perpetrators of domestic violence tend to isolate their victims from their families and take control over their lives, these phones can serve as a lifeline to families, employers, landlords and friends, he said. The phones are loaded with 3,000 minutes for texting and calling and can be refreshed with more minutes at any time with no cost to the owner. Murphy said.
The Silent Witness National Initiative, a program that promotes and educates an end to domestic violence through community-based exhibits, helped raise awareness also. Members placed life-size cutouts of victims who died because of domestic violence around the church. Attached to each silhouette was a plaque detailing the story of how that particular victim died. All the cutouts in the church were from New Hampshire.
After Rivera’s vehicle was decorated, Murphy offered Christopherson a $6,000 check from Verizon Wireless for the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention to support survivors of domestic violence. A $1,000 HopeLine Grant went to the sheriff’s vehicle; the remaining $5,000 will be used for teen dating violence prevention programs.
In 2013 the center provided 647 victims of domestic violence with assistance. The group also sponsors the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event for men, women and children to show their support for survivors of sexual assault. This year’s event will be in April at Keene State College.