Launched by District Attorney Andrea Harrington in April, the Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force is working on its first initiative.
Partnering with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, the taskforce is carrying out a community book read in October to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness month.
“The book is called ‘No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us’ by Rachel Louise Snyder, and basically the book makes the case that domestic violence is a public health problem and there are real solutions," said task force member Lorena Dus. “So what we’re asking the community is to join us, the task force, because we’ll be reading the book too, to join us during the month of October on reading this book and that the different groups that are reading it, they host a discussion surrounding this topic, and then those discussions will be attended to by members of the taskforce.”
The groups participating in the project include the Boys & Girls Club, Community Health Programs, Men Initiating Change, the NAACP, County Ambulance and more.
“There are a lot of myths surrounding domestic violence," said Hillery Maxymillian, also a member of the task force. “Victims should just leave, that a violent person cannot become nonviolent, that shelter is an adequate response, and that violence inside the home is a private matter.”
The book addresses the complexity of domestic violence, and how it can range from the physical to the emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial.
“I hope people get to understand that domestic violence is not only ‘my partner is being abusive,’ like, ‘hitting me’ – it’s more than that," said Dus. "And I also hope that this gets people to speak up, and speak up for those that are too afraid to do it. So we hope that this can create a conversation that this is not a common thing, and that those that are afraid can come to us, can go to the authorities and talk about it.”
Dus is the senior case worker at the Berkshire Immigrant Center, and says there are hurdles in addressing domestic violence.
“People are afraid to talk, and they go into our office and they know it is a safe place, but it is a sensitive topic," she told WAMC. "So it is incredible to see how this book opens your eyes and makes you feel like you can share the story, you can share your story too.”
The community read is just the first part of the experience with Snyder and her book.
“February 6th, we’re going to have the author of the book coming to have a conference at the Colonial Theatre," said Dus. "It’s completely free. It will be from 5:30 to 7:30. So what we’re hoping is the community can go there and ask questions too.”
“A constituent – Marietta Cawse, who lives in Pittsfield – sent me a clipping from the ‘New York Times,’ which was a book review of this book," said DA Harrington. She says the article argued for an evidence based prosecution policy in domestic violence cases.
“And what that means is that prosecutors should be treating domestic violence cases similar to the way we treat homicide cases in terms of, we should prosecute cases where we have the evidence to do so even when we don’t have victims who necessarily are cooperating and are pushing for the prosecution,” said the DA.
Harrington – who describes domestic violence as a public health crisis in the county – says the book offers actionable solutions, drawing on one example it documents from an incident in Massachusetts.
“The community responded by creating something called the High Risk Team, which is something that I talked about during the campaign that I wanted to bring to Berkshire County, so it’s like all of the pieces really came together and I felt that the information in this book was highly relevant to the challenges and the conversations that we’re having here in Berkshire County,” she told WAMC.
The book ‘No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us’ by Rachel Louise Snyder is available from the Bookstore in Lenox and the Bookloft in Great Barrington. A percentage of the sales will go to the Elizabeth Freeman Center during the month of October.
The Elizabeth Freeman Center’s 24 hour hotline for anyone experiencing domestic or sexual violence is (866) 401-2425.