Domestic violence center in operation at Jonnycake; support group to begin

Domestic violence center in operation at Jonnycake; support group to begin


WESTERLY — The Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County has established a drop-in center at the Jonnycake Center of Westerly and will soon offer a support group there.

The drop-in center, which is open on Mondays from noon to 3 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, began operations at the Canal Street facility in December. The support group is expected to begin in March.

“We understand it is hard for people who need our services to come to Wakefield,” said Anne Mulhall, communications director of the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County. She was referring to the center’s main office on Main Street in Wakefield.

The center began offering services on a pilot basis at the Jonnycake center last summer. Statistics gathered and maintained by the domestic violence center show a need for services locally, Mulhall said.

Domestic violence involves the exertion of power and control by one individual over another and can involve physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and psychological abuse. The dynamic plays out across age groups, including teenagers who are just starting to learn about relationships, Mulhall said. “Teens don’t always recognize it for what it is. You could have a stalking situation that someone mistakes for love,” she said.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month as established by National Domestic Violence Hotline. The campaign aims to inform teens and adults about possible dangers teens face while dating.

The support group, scheduled to start in March, will be facilitated by Kirsten Maar, a Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County community outreach coordinator. “It’s a way to receive support from us and other members of the group and offers a community of people coming together,” Mulhall said.

The drop-in center offers one-to-one counseling to victims or people who are concerned that they might be experiencing domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County also offers a safe house for victims. All of the center’s services are free and confidential. Mulhall stressed that people who are more comfortable traveling to Wakefield are welcome to get services there.

The center also provides a law enforcement advocate who works with local police departments and sometimes responds to domestic violence calls that police are investigating. The liaison helps victims understand their legal rights, the legal systems, and resources. “That can sometimes be a barrier to a victim taking the next step toward safety,” Mulhall said of the often complicated legal system.

The center is a member of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a resource Mulhall said strengthens its ability to deliver services and advocate for victims.

The center said it was pleased to be working in Westerly.

In a news release, Mary Roda, executive director, said, “The center is really excited about this opportunity to expand our services in the Westerly community. Domestic violence is illegal. We need to stop domestic violence before it starts, and intervene when it is happening. We can not do this alone...this partnership, and partnerships with others, is imperative to the movement to fight the broader issue of social justice. We are all committed to action that leads to safer and healthier communities for all people.”

Susan Rosen, Jonnycake Center program director, said the center’s clients were quick to respond to the availability of the new services.

“I knew that having a domestic violence advocate at Jonnycake would be beneficial to many of our clients, but I was not expecting the instant response from abuse survivors who have been looking for nearby support and empathy for what they have been experiencing. As a former advocate, I was well aware of the need in our community for support services, the domestic violence numbers having been so high. I made it one of my top priorities when I became program director of the social services department at the Jonnycake Center,” Rosen said in the press release.

Rosen praised the work of Maar, the community outreach coordinator.

“Kirsten’s presence has been a wonderful addition to my department and she is more than eager to get the word out that she is here and ready to help. I have no doubt that this is an asset that will continue to grow and we are able to expand the services being offered,” Rosen said.

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