Walking to Change Abuse in Salem

Salem, MA—Judy Currier, 66, still remembers when her 29-year old cousin Kim was beaten to death by her husband. Nine months after that horrific event, Currier and her family members formed a team to attend Healing Abuse Working for Change’s fundraising walk in memory of her cousin.

“We walk as a family,” said Currier. “We do it as a way to stay connected to Kim.”

On May 5, 2013, Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC) will host its 21st fundraising walk and community awareness event. The event starts at the Salem Commons and registration begins at 9 a.m. HAWC was started in 1978, by a group of women who applied for a grant to stop the abuse they witnessed. Thirty-five years later, HAWC provides legal advice, hospital advocacy, an emergency hotline and children’s services among other things for those suffering from abuse.

Paula Gomez Stordy, 42, HAWC’s director of community relations, began working with the organization in 1998 when they collaborated with North Shore Medical Center to create a domestic violence program to train their workers on how to deal with patients who are, or who they suspect to be, domestically abused.

“I saw it as a great opportunity for the hospital to educate the staff,” said Gomez Stordy.

The partnership has lasted; North Shore Medical Center has even provided sponsorship for past walks.

According to janedoe.org, the Massachusetts coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, nearly one in two women and one in four men in Massachusetts in 2010 had experienced sexual violence victimization. Between 2003 and December of 2012, the organization identified 231 victims of domestic violence related homicides.

HAWC provides free domestic services between the 23 cities and towns on the North Shore. The hotline and legal advocacy are the most used resources, according to Gomez Stordy.

“Usually people call the hotline if they are not safe at home,” said Gomez Stordy. “Legal advocacy is used a lot. They provide support to anyone who needs it.”

Sergeant Sheila McDaid, 49, of the Peabody Police Department has been a frequent walker since 1999. As a former member of the domestic violence unit of the police department, McDaid doesn’t see the issue going away.

“Domestic violence hits a lot of people,” said McDaid. “It really doesn’t matter what your background is. It affects everyone.”

Most of the lawyers in the legal program work pro bono. Since a majority are volunteers, Healing Abuse Working for Change uses the fundraising money as a means to prevent funding loss. Ordinarily the organization receives a two-year federal grant from the government, but funding is fairly competitive and this year they did not receive it.

Still, the number of walkers has grown significantly since its first year. Gomez Stordy says that a lot of people walk for a lot of different reasons.

“Some people come out for prevention, other people come out to honor survivors and others come to pay respect to those who have lost their lives to domestic violence,” said Gomez Stordy. “It is because of the community that we can fix these issues.”

Published in The Gloucester Times and boston.com


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