After a Project SARAH presentation at the Jewish Federation of Southern NJ’s Women’s Gala, a JFCS representative received a letter, which, in part, read: “Before you started speaking, I leaned over to my friend and asked why we even needed a domestic abuse program. I mentioned to her that this didn’t really exist in our town; the families I know all seem so successful and together, and not what I thought abusive homes ‘looked’ like. After you spoke about how many people approach you – from my own town – and use your services – I was shocked right there in my seat. It’s sad to think of them enduring the violence in private, and not being able to reach out or get support. I am so happy to have learned about a program like Project SARAH that helps them get the support and help they need.”
Sadly, Camden County, one of the counties included in the JFCS agency footprint, represents the highest rate of domestic abuse in the entire state. “Camden County continues to have the highest number of domestic violence offenses in the state. The most recent statistics by the NJ State Police show that 7,043 domestic violence offenses were reported in Camden County alone. Based upon these statistics, Camden County once again had the highest rate of domestic violence in the state” (Camden Center for Law and Social Justices, 2011). In the same year, 3,000 cases were reported in Burlington County, another county JFCS serves. If you were to add-in all of the unreported cases, the numbers become unfathomable.
Needless to say, domestic violence is a huge problem, and one that can be helped by educating our youth, educating our public, and raising awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence. Project SARAH has been at the forefront of this cause for years, and its outreach has increased exponentially since its inception. In the last six months, the program has been especially busy in the community, with JFCS coordinators facilitating domestic violence education seminars at least 2-3 times a month at local high schools, synagogues, and organizations.
Project SARAH Case Manager Hilary Platt says, “We have continued to garner growing support from local synagogues regarding participation in youth programs and future speaking engagements at Shabbats and women’s groups. In addition, Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel will do an entire section with their youth on the Building Healthy Relationships seminar, which educates local youths on developing and identifying healthy, non-toxic relationships.” Theresa Carbon, also a Project SARAH Case Manager, and Hilary have joined the following committees in order to strengthen support for victims in the community, and to better address domestic violence in our Southern New Jersey region:
Camden Coalition of Healthcare ProvidersThe Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (CCHP) works with healthcare providers, hospitals, and physician practices to improve the care and coordination of healthcare for Camden residents while decreasing costs.
Cooper Against Domestic AbuseCooper Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) provides a Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) within Cooper University Hospital and offers continued education and resources to the staff and patients regarding domestic abuse.
Camden County Violence Prevention Coalition through Service Empowering Rights of Victims (SERV)
The members of this coalition develop new ideas to expand our ongoing prevention efforts.
Community Planning & Advocacy CouncilCommunity Planning & Advocacy Council (CPAC) is a catalyst in greater Camden County for creating community solutions to address social, health, and mental health wants and needs; advocating and actively promoting individual, family, and community empowerment and organizational capacity building; and working with government and public officials to positively impact public policy.
Voorhees Domestic Violence Response TeamThe Voorhees Domestic Violence Response Team works with the Voorhees Police Department in a volunteer capacity, providing advocacy for domestic violence victims.
Additionally, women’s groups and synagogues have started using Project SARAH as Mitzvah projects, by donating gift cards and items needed for shelters and victims.
The impact of the Project SARAH outreach effort, combined with the Building Healthy Relationships seminars, are making a difference and bringing light into a dark world of domestic violence. “I feel so empowered with the knowledge I’m getting and knowing there is something I can do and that I am not alone,” said one JFCS client. “When he was in my face, I thought…I hope he just hits and gets it over with so I can call the police…” said another, who had no idea that the police were there for her in any form of abuse, not just physical. “You don’t need to be physically hurt to get support and restraining orders. This why outreach and education are so important,” says Platt.
Over the next six months, a concerted outreach effort will continue to spread awareness about domestic violence, and to inform the public of Project SARAH services. There is also a call for professional volunteers from the community to donate their skills and talents to assist victims who are transitioning out of violent situations. Specifically, accountants and attorneys are needed to help assist with the legal and financial ramifications of making such a move. Together, with the help of the community, JFCS can answer the call to eradicate the senseless hurt and heartache caused by domestic violence.
For more information about Project SARAH, Building Healthy Relationships seminars, or to offer your professional assistance to victims of domestic abuse, please call 856-424-1333 or email Hilary Platt at firstname.lastname@example.org or Theresa Carbon at email@example.com.