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(HHS Staff Left to Right. Back Row: Michael Powell, Ann Hwang, Havin Nichols, Alec Loftus, Tammy Mello, Robyn Kennedy, Jill Judd, Zachary Crowley, Ashlie Brown, Emma Levine, Jack Bosen. Front: Connie Fidalgo, Suzanne Cray, John Polanowicz, Claudia Henderson, Stephanie Deronette.)

(HHS Staff Left to Right. Back Row: Michael Powell, Ann Hwang, Haven Nichols, Alec Loftus, Tammy Mello, Robyn Kennedy, Jill Judd, Zachary Crowley, Ashlie Brown, Emma Levine, Jack Bosen. Front: Connie Fidalgo, Suzanne Cray, John Polanowicz, Claudia Henderson, Stephanie Deronette.)

In 1994, after four years of intense investigation and testimony, Congress concluded  that there was a pervasive problem of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking among women in the United States.  As a result,the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed.  This legislation  was the first time the federal government acknowledged theses issues and allocated funding, through grant programs, to fund support services for victims.

Although VAWA marked a significant milestone in violence against women, the history of the battered women’s movement dates back to the 1970s.    The movement began with grassroots organizing by women all over the country and evolved into a movement that focuses on ensuring safety and support for all victims of domestic violence.

Massachusetts is home to the first abuser education program in the United States, founded as Emerge Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence in 1977 in Cambridge and is still active today.

The movement has since developed to include men (1982 Men Stopping Violence, Decatur GA) as well as culturally specific communities and disproportionately marginalized populations. And in 1989, The Network/La Red was founded as the first organization specifically working with lesbian and bi-sexual women in the Boston area.

In the last year, stories like the murder of Jennifer Martel by her abusive boyfriend Jared Remy and the video of Ray Rice knocking his then fiancee unconscious has created both a public outcry. But it has also created an important opportunity to elevate the issue of domestic violence, to open the lines of discussion and educate boys, girls, men and women about the impact domestic violence has on individuals, families and communities.

We have learned a lot over the last  four decades in the evolution of the movement to end domestic violence.

  • We have learned that domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, socio-economic status or sexual orientation.  

  • We have learned that we need culturally sensitive services and supports to be readily available to help victims in times of need. 

  • We have learned that in order to increase safety, we need to hold offenders accountable for their behaviors and have system responses that ensure victim safety is paramount in developing interventions. 

  • We have learned that the issue is not a women’s issue, but a human rights issue.

DV T Ad 2014Governor Patrick recently participated in a domestic violence awareness month event at the state house to launch the new transit ad campaign by Casa Myrna Vasquez.  During that event Governor Patrick pointed out that the recent attention in the media was “calling to attention something that thrives on lack of attention”.  The video of Ray Rice assaulting his fiancee represents the stark reality of what so many victims of domestic violence victims endure on a daily basis….but we have no video to witness it.  The new Casa Myrna campaign is targeting friends, families and neighbors of victims of domestic violence to say something, extend support, or ask how they can help.

In the words of Governor Patrick: “We continue to ask for all our citizens to see combating domestic violence as parts of our shared responsibility for each other.  Working together we can make a difference in preventing domestic violence and stopping a tragedy before it happens.”

For resources and more information, please visit: www.mass.gov/dph/violence

Written By:


Director of Violence Prevention

Communications Director, Executive Office of Health and Human Services

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