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Domestic Violence Volunteers Make Difference in Town

Jersey Battered Women's Services offer events, training.

Jefferson Township recognized domestic awareness month with a proclamation at its recent council meeting.

Councilwoman Debi Merz, a member of the township’s Crisis Response Team (CRT) accepted the proclamation along with Claudette Austin-Talley, the township’s CRT leader and several volunteers.

“This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, and I’m proud to see all that Jefferson does,” Council President Rick Yocum said.

Honoring the month is not all that Jefferson does, according to Patty Sly, executive director of Jersey Battered Women’s Services (JBWS), and Jane Shivas, the organization’s associate executive director.

“The CRT in Jefferson is very committed to learning,” Sly said. “It’s very impressive. “The whole community of Jefferson has been very active,” she added. “The high school has a great Teens Against Dating Abuse (TADA) program. The town is very publicly identifying the problem and working toward a solution.”

Domestic violence, Sly said, is a problem that JBWS likes to see a community take on as an issue.

“As a society we need to own the problem and not tolerate it,” Sly said. “We at JBWS can’t have the impact alone that we do when we have the broader community speaking out about the issue. We all have to let victims know they are not alone and there is help.”

One of JBWS’s key tools to get that work done is volunteers.

“We rely on volunteers in so many ways,” Shivas said. “Our CRT groups interact with victims when they are in the middle of a situation, getting them information and any referrals they may need.”

When the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act was enacted in 1982, part of the requirement was for all municipalities to have crisis response teams, Sly said.

“We have very strong laws in New Jersey. Victims can get a temporary restraining order against their abuser without the defendant even being present,” she said.

Since 1997, JBWS has provided training for CRT members.

JBWS also has a fundraising group of about 20 volunteers that works on ways to raise money for the organization.

The group’s next big event is “A Night at the Races,” to be held at the New Vernon Fire Company on Nov. 3. It includes video of actual races that people can bet on, and a beefsteak dinner.

“What’s really neat about this event is that our volunteers identified that this would be something fun to do and set the whole thing up,” Sly said. “It’s great to see people giving of their time and talents.”

Other upcoming events include the Candles for Peace event on Oct. 14 at Gardner Field in Denville.

“We will remember victims of domestic violence, especially those that have lost their lives,” Shivas said. “But it is also a message of hope to let victims know there are services and ways to get free from victimization.”

The Safe Dating Challenge is on Oct. 28. It’s a 5K run/1.5 mile fun walk that brings people together and recognizes the issue of dating abuse, Sly said. “We try to offer a message of awareness and availability of services.”

JBWS offers training for all volunteers at any level.

“We have DV101 training, which is for people who aren’t sure how involved they want to get,” Sly said. “It’s a basic overview of domestic violence.”

Professional training and community awareness programs are also available.

To find out more about JBWS, it’s volunteer training and upcoming events, visit www.jbws.org or call 973-267-4763.

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