Amid ‘crisis,' Mass. launches $100K grants for domestic violence service providers

Nonprofits will be eligible for the grant funding, to help provide them with resources to reach those who may be in a violent situation and spread awareness of available services

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Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin announced the creation of a new grant program Wednesday to help raise awareness about services available to survivors of domestic violence.

“It is clear to anyone who has been following the news over the past year that we are facing a statewide crisis of domestic violence,” Galvin said in a statement. “This new grant program is targeted at increasing awareness, not only of this upsurge in violence, but also of the services available to those trying to leave an abusive situation.”



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The state budget signed by Gov. Maura Healey earlier this month includes $100,000 in funding for a statewide Domestic Violence Service Provider Grant Program.

In recent weeks, several local communities have been impacted by cases of domestic violence.

In Peabody, a man was arrested for allegedly setting his ex-girlfriend’s bed on fire while she was sleeping in it, prompting the evacuation of the apartment building.

In Salem, police say 20-year-old Nayeli Nieves was killed by her boyfriend. The police department said they began an investigation into a domestic violence situation involving Nieves in July.

In Newton, a man has been charged with murder, accused of beating his wife to death, two days after she filed a restraining order against him.

The Newton fitness instructor who was brutally killed was honored Saturday to raise awareness against domestic violence. Friends and former students of Nancy Hanson held a walk at the Newton YMCA to call for more protections for victims of domestic violence. Nancy Hanson was allegedly beaten to death by her husband Richard Hanson in their home on July 15, two days after she filed a restraining order against him.

Lists compiled by Jane Doe Inc., indicate the number of domestic violence homicides has increased in recent years, with 25 victims recorded in 2022, 15 in 2021 and nine in 2020. In 2019, the organization identified 23 incidents of domestic violence homicide in which there were 27 homicide victims.

A 2022 report from the State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team notes there have thousands of charges in recent years related to domestic violence including intimidation, assault and kidnapping or abduction.

These numbers are a snapshot of a crime that impacts countless people in various forms every day.

“We've seen an increase in hotline calls and intakes,” said Amarely Gutierrez Oliver, executive director of REACH Beyond Domestic Violence. “The capacity to be able to support that has diminished over time, but so has this push for education and prevention and I'm hoping that with these increases, it shows our our lawmakers, our state, our partners that we need to invest more in our education and prevention work.”

She recommends contacting organizations like REACH that offer advocates who can help people in abusive situations consider their options. She noted that restraining orders are tools that can work for some people but there can be elevated risk of danger when victims seek them out, so the advocates can help them create a safety plan.

“If you choose to do this, then we're going to look at the whole picture. When is it appropriate to file this? Where is the person you're trying to be protected from at this time? Are there weapons involved? Where are the children? Is there a safe place that you might need to be in if you go through this process? Somewhere safe that could keep you and your children, if there are children involved, safe or even pets? Finally, at the end, you as a survivor have the sole decision to do it or not.”

Restraining orders also have limitations. One is that that they don’t currently apply to abuse known as “coercive control.”

“It starts with the emotions, it starts with financial, it starts with controlling that person's money and saying ‘You cannot spend that, you cannot feed your children. Today, you must wear this outfit, not this outfit. You cannot have this friend. You can only have this friend.’ It started long before, but there's no actual mechanism in law to say like ‘This is a protection against that without the physical piece. So, I think that's one of the barriers that we tend to face,” said Gutierrez Oliver. “When we start to have these discussions publicly, you know, on TV or in the paper, it's always about the physical part. And I think if we start to reframe it and start looking at how it actually begins, then people will be more educated to recognize those red flags and we can kind of do some course correction in that way. And a lot more prevention and education can happen.”

A billboard off I-93 is asking would-be domestic abusers to call a hotline for help.

She recommends anyone with questions or concerns about abuse or domestic violence contact one of many organizations ready to help.

“Whether you call REACH or the state hotline or the national hotline, what you have on the other end is a person that's willing to hear you out. You make that decision yourself. But there are different ways to help you move forward in whatever situation that you're in. Together, we're going to figure something out that's going to work for you and your family.”

SafeLink is Massachusetts’ statewide 24/7 toll-free domestic violence hotline and a resource for anyone affected by domestic or dating violence. The SafeLink toll-free number is 877-785-2020

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