Light in the Darkness Candlelight Vigil, sponsored by the Domestic Violence Services Network

DA Ryan addresses the DVSN community, remembering victims of domestic violence

By April M. Crehan

Candlelight vigil honors domestic violence victims
November 05, 2014 4:09PM

With a heavily musical program, the Domestic Violence Services Network and community supporters, including many police officers, memorialized this year’s 14 victims of fatal domestic violence in Massachusetts.

“We really treasure this opportunity,” said Jacqueline Apsler, executive director of the organization, which provides a hotline as well as trained advocates to help clients assess their situation, create safety plans and navigate court proceedings, as desired. “You help us shine a light on this serious devastating scourge. By joining us tonight you take one more step to become part of our coordinated community effort… There is help and there is hope.”

The past year’s victims, ranging from under a year to more than 80 years old, included several from Arlington. Police officers from multiple participating towns, including Arlington, Concord and Lincoln, were in attendance at last Wednesday’s Bemis Hall event in Lincoln, as was an honor guard from Hanscom Air Force Base.

After an opening song by Amanda Casale Eldridge, a founding member of the Flyleaf Theater Company that performed six songs that night, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan spoke about the overlooked victims of domestic violence: children.

Ryan, who said she counts herself as lucky for her career as a public prosecutor, said her long tenure also means she has had the bad luck of seeing child victims or witnesses of domestic violence grow up and become victims or perpetrators to their own abusers.

“What happens in the house is something that’s very hard to recover from,” Ryan said. “Just think about having running in the back of your mind the track of being worried about your mother or maybe yourself” while trying to attend school. “Think about how that would be if you didn’t get any sleep last night or if you are worried about what you’re going to see when you get home… That child isn’t just being deprived of their safety and security, but they’re being deprived of an equal opportunity to be learning and to be growing. We, the community, are being deprived of that best child,” she said, citing poorer performance in school, increased truancy and drop-out rates, and difficulty finding employment for children who grow up in violent households.

“When you really start unraveling that and going back, it’s coming back to domestic violence,” she added.

Plenty of victims of violence think their children are unaware of what is going on; Ryan warned this is almost never the case. “Kids are like radar on feet. I guarantee you they’re listening,” she said.

“The children’s voices are often silent,” said Deborah Garfield, the director of clinical services at the Eliot Center, who called the ceremony beautiful. “When people say to us ‘oh, the kids don’t know,’ it’s like ‘yes, they do!’”

Controlling behaviors and harassment are growing ever easier as technology expands, said Ryan, who jokingly blamed her singlehood until her 30's on her mother.

“I guarantee you no one was dealing with my mother 300 times,” she said, eliciting a chuckle.

After Ryan spoke, community members read aloud the names and stories of the victims and rang a bell for each one.

“The music really added a lot to it,” said Haley Marshall, a reader who taught advocate-training classes.

Retired sergeant (and one-time acting chief) Jack Kennedy of the Concord police also participated; he has continued and expanded his work with DVSN with the founding of a safety team to identify high risks for domestic violence.

“I’ve been involved for a long time,” said Kennedy, who said it just made sense to remain with the organization after he retired.

“The group of people that came together just speaks to the level of collaboration,” Apsler said.

Domestic Violence Services Network (DVSN) is a non-profit, community-based organization, that has partnered with police departments in 10 collaborative towns, including Maynard and Stow, to provide outreach and direct support to victims of domestic abuse.

DVSN provides confidential service through trained volunteers. For help call 1-888-399-6111.

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