A crowd of about 70 people gathered at the Livingston Oval on Oct. 15 to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, lighting candles and observing a moment of silence for victims and survivors of abuse.
It was one of two events organized by the Rachel Coalition, the domestic violence division of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. In a separate event, actress Mariska Hargitay spoke at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield on Oct. 18 about her Joyful Heart Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. The event featuring the star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was closed to the press. Law & Order: SVU is a crime drama series focusing on sexually-based offenses.
Julie Levine of Roseland was among the 70 or so people who came to the oval, despite the chill in the air. “I came to unsilence the violence. I don’t want my past to be someone else’s future,” she said. “Anything I can do to bring that knowledge and awareness to others, I will. Education is the key to ending domestic violence, and a victim’s silence is the abuser’s best asset.”
Speakers included the Rev. Dan Martian, president of the Livingston Clergy Association; Livingston Mayor Michael Silverman; Essex County assistant prosecutors Cheryl Cucinello and Judith DeRosa; Rachel Coalition leaders Sheri Wolfson, steering committee chair, and Shari Blumberg, clinical director; and Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Asia D. Smith, founder of the Essex County social services agency Purple R.E.I.G.N., discussed her own battle with domestic violence and the subsequent founding of her organization. Essex County Freeholder Pat Sebold, and NJ Assembly members Mila Jasey and John McKeon, both Democrats from Dist. 27, also took part.
Jasey offered a proclamation and discussed her own history with domestic violence. “During my mother’s second marriage, she was abused, verbally and physically. As the oldest girl, I did not know how to handle it. Now it is something we are finally talking about.”
Jasey mentioned the impact the violence had on her 10 siblings, but added, “I’m very proud to say that none of my brothers continued the abuse.
“This problem exists in many places in silence,” said Jasey. “We have to work as women to shine a light on it.”
The evening concluded with a musical performance by a survivor of abuse and domestic violence.