New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno urged some 75 activists against domestic violence to pay close attention to its impact on children.
Speaking May 8 at a public policy roundtable at JCC MetroWest in West Orange, Guadagno told the multiracial, multi-faith gathering that they “must never forget the impact this has on children.”
Guadagno’s largely female audience consisted of Christians, Jews, and Muslims; state legislators and social workers; and attorneys and law enforcement officials.
The event was sponsored by the NJ Coalition for Battered Women, the Rachel Coalition, the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and Partners for Women and Justice in partnership with 29 other organizations that fight domestic violence.
In a voice cracking with sadness, the lieutenant governor urged the activists to “please make sure you include those children who have been brutalized by what you are going to talk about, and let’s talk about how we can help them.”
Delivering the keynote was Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
“Although domestic violence and sexual assault can be devastating to the victims and the children and the victims’ families, the impact goes a lot farther,” said Gandy. “It really impacts the health and well-being of an entire community, an entire state. Domestic violence is a public health issue that can trigger chronic diseases and the constant stress of being in fear.”
She said in 1999 “the cost of intimate partner rape, physical assault, and stalking exceeded $5.8 billion each year — nearly $4.1 billion of which was for direct medical and mental health care services. You know that number is a lot higher now.”
Gandy cited a recent study showing that in New Jersey alone 2,261 individuals — half adults and half children — had to be turned away from overcrowded shelters in a single day.
“We would not let 2,261 houses burn down because we did not have enough firefighters. This is just as serious a public safety issue,” she said.
Toby Shylit-Mack, vice president of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations and a former chair of the Community Relations Council of the former Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, called for “cultural sensitivity training,” particularly in ethnic and religious communities “where many sensitive issues are not discussed or dealt with openly.”
“The children of domestic violence need very, very specific counseling because they don’t open up the way adults do, even adults who have been battered,” she said.
Elie Honig, director of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice, cited statistics that one in every four women and one in every seven men have been victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. “The reach of this crime is truly astonishing,” said Honig.
Other speakers included state senators Nia Gill (D-Dist. 34) and Linda Greenstein (D-Dist. 14) and State Assembly members Mila Jasey (D-Dist. 27) and Gordon Johnson (D-Dist. 37).
Gill said she is designing a bill to outlaw cellphone applications that allow potential abusers to monitor the movements and messages of their intended victims.