By Sabrina Damms
01:37PM / Monday, September 26, 2022
The center has raised 90 percent of its goal of $125,000 so far.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents and community leaders marching down North Street last week were encouraged by passing vehicles honking their support for the walk to raise funds for the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
"It's been a tough 2 1/2 years. I think with COVID, we've all been feeling the pain and Elizabeth Freeman Center, we knew that COVID would create the very conditions that lead to increased violence," said Executive Director Janis Broderick.
"And we've been seeing we've been seeing more calls, much higher levels of danger, and much greater financial need prior to COVID are written to protection of violence."
Since 2006, at least 14 people, including three children, have "been murdered by their current or former partners, husbands and father," Broderick said.
Members of the LGBTQ-plus community collaborated with the center to create an event that is representative of all gender identities and sexual orientations. This resulted in "Rise Together for Safety and Justice," a series of smaller walks around the county.
This year's fundraising goal is $125,000 and, by this past weekend, the organization had raised almost 90 percent of its goal from underwriters, walkers, teams, and individual donors.
To put the fundraising dollars in perspective, $25 will provide safety transportation to the center's emergency shelter and $100 ensures a night of emergency shelter and food for a family.
The final walks are being held this week (because rain delays): meet at North Adams City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m. and at Tunnel Street Cafe in Williamstown on Friday, Sept. 30, at noon.
You can donate to the Elizabeth Freeman Center here
Broderick last week wanted to take a moment to recognize a former staff member and leading activist in the transgender community, Jahaira DeAlto, who was murdered in May 2021.
DeAlto was a domestic violence survivor. She took in a needy family and the husband murdered his wife and DeAlto.
Moved to tears, Broderick stopped to take a moment of silence for DeAlto and all the other victims of domestic abuse.
"We rise as part of a growing community movement to stand up, speak out, reach out and support survivors hold abusers accountable and hold our systems accountable," Broderick said. "We rise to defend our rights to bodily autonomy, to love and marry whomever we choose to vote, to live without fear. We rise to claim the change we want to see."
With the help of the community, a difference is being made, she said.
"I also truly believe that we are receiving so many calls because you are spreading the word you are spreading the word that help is available," Broderick said.
The statistics on domestic violence is in the United States is astonishing, NAACP chapter President Dennis Powell said.
Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crimes annually in the United States. More than 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 4 men experience either physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, he said.
Victims are commonly abused by those they are closest to. Each year, domestic violence hotlines in the United States receive more than 20,000 calls reporting incidences.
An average of 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, Powell said.
"That shows us just how prevalent this is in our society. A weapon is used and 19 percent of domestic violence incidences. Women who are victims of intimate partner violence are most likely to be between the ages of 18 and 24," he said.
In Massachusetts, 22.9 percent of women and 31.7 percent of men experience violence, however, Massachusetts is not the leading state there are some worse.
"Domestic violence is a violent crime. The abuser also often believes that the abuse is an entitlement, acceptable, justified or unlikely to be reported. Now we're all here to rise together," Powell said.
"Domestic violence is not an entitlement. ... Domestic violence is not justified. ... Domestic violence will be reported," the audience collectively repeated after Powell for all of North Street to hear.
"Let's rise. Let's put an end to this inhumane treatment of human beings. Let's rise together," Powell concluded.
Concluding the evening, Mayor Linda Tyer praised the event and the "extraordinary organization, the employees, and the volunteers who make our city safer for everyone."
Making change starts with one set, she said quoting one of the signs she saw that evening.
"And that's what we did tonight, we took steps towards change. And it's so great to be among you and to share this experience with all of you. And when we walk, we remember those we've lost," the mayor said.
The work Broderick and her team do at the center provide opportunities for survivors to thrive, she continued. "There are survivors. People do overcome and they have opportunities to thrive because of the Elizabeth Freeman center. So please be generous. They need your help."