Activists, organizations urge victims of domestic violence to reach out for help

     More than 65,000 incidents of domestic violence are reported in the state every year, says Jane Shivas, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

    More than 65,000 incidents of domestic violence are reported in the state every year, says Jane Shivas, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

    During October, Domestic Violence Awareness month, activists are trying to encourage victims to get help.

    More than 65,000 incidents of domestic violence are reported in the state every year, said Jane Shivas, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence. Women from all economic and social groups can be victims.

    “Some groups are impacted disproportionately, such as the homicide rate among African-American women, sexual and intimate partner assault among vulnerable immigrant women, and the invisibility of crimes against persons who are disabled,” Shivas said.

    Domestic violence survivor Robin Hughes, who lives in Mercer County, said she and her child had to run from their home with nothing but a trash bag of clothes to live in a shelter.

    “I know all too well the fear, helplessness, shame, confusion and loneliness of living in a relationship with a controlling and violent partner,” Hughes said. “I know what it feels like to have to admit to strangers that you are scared of what’s going to happen to you and your child and that you are terrified you may not survive until tomorrow.”

    Hughes said she got through it with the support of a domestic violence agency.

    Burlington County resident Elizabeth Paddy, another survivor of domestic violence, said  organizations are ready to help victims.

    “Abusers control, they manipulate and make your feel like your are the one with the problem,” Paddy said. “Today we need to just stand up, speak out, and take back our lives.”

    Sen. Linda Greenstein, chairwoman of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, said domestic violence against men is underreported.

    “One study shows that two in five gay men for example have experienced abuse, and men tend not to report even more than women because of cultural reasons,” said Greenstein, D-Middlesex. “So this is something I think we need to take a closer look at. It’s often ignored.”

    The Coalition to End Domestic Violence changed its name from the Coalition for Battered Women to encourage male victims to seek help.

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