GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 7, 2013

City, groups launch new assault on domestic violence

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — A trio of groups targeting domestic violence, backed by the city of Gloucester and its Police Department, is kicking off a new initiative that counts on businesses to offer public and temporary “safe sites” where people can go when confronted with domestic threats or assaults.

The Gloucester Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Abuse, the YWCA North Shore Rape Crisis Center and the Salem-based HAWC — for “healing abuse, working for change” — will be joining forces to launch the local program Tuesday at noon on the steps of Gloucester’s City Hall, where officials will outline the program, modeled after a national project first launched in Arizona.

The Tuesday event also marks the 13th annual gathering of local domestic abuse prevention advocates, as Gloucester’s third successive mayor declares October Domestic Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, said local activist Sunny Robinson, who is among those helping to coordinating the effort.

“Freedom from domestic violence is a human rights issue affecting each and every one of us,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk said in her local proclamation recognizing the month. “The city of Gloucester, supported by its police chief and department, remains committed to creating and sustaining a safety net for victims and survivors of violence.

“We stand together to commemorate our sustained community effort to recognize domestic violence as a critical and ongoing public health issue in our city,” Kirk said. “With the launching of ‘Safe Sites,’ we now invite local businesses, beginning with those downtown, but soon expanding to the neighborhoods, to join with us in this effort by offering access to resources and temporary respite from unsafe situations.”

The Safe Sites project, already being implemented through the regional Rape Crisis Center in a number of other North Shore communities, is designed to:

Create a system of safe, temporary public spaces for any individual experiencing street harassment, sexual assault or other forms of violence;

Send the message that these crimes will not be tolerated in the community;

Raise awareness of community resources available to those experiencing harassment or other forms of violence.

Under the program, participating businesses would display a Safe Sites decal in their windows to indicate that help is available, if needed.

Safe Site businesses, in turn, are provided with basic written information about emergency services and local resources to share with anyone seeking assistance. They may also offer use of their phones and allow someone feeling threatened to remain in their business until help arrives.

Safe Sites is modeled after the successful Safe Streets program of the Arizona Center against Sexual Assault and is also being implemented in other local cities and towns through the YWCA North Shore Rape Crisis Center.