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Safe Berks Silent Witness March delivers powerful message [Opinion]

The Safe Berks Silent Witness March is always a poignant event.

Each year, survivors, victims, family, friends, supporters and advocates gather to draw attention to domestic violence, to remember those lost and remind us all that more needs to be done.

There were red silhouettes in the Schmidt Technology & Training Center on the RACC campus representing the 76 women, men and children in Berks County who have died as a result of domestic violence since 1999.

If that staggering number isn’t enough, consider:

The event, part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, coincidentally took place two days after investigators said a Leesport man fatally shot his wife and himself. Berks District Attorney John T. Adams called it a tragic domestic violence incident.

The event coincidentally took place the same day that investigators said a Pottstown man fatally shot his wife and himself. Investigators said there was a history of domestic violence involving the husband.

The day after the event, a Montgomery County jury convicted another Pottstown man of strangling his wife with an electrical cord in April 2020. Officials noted at the time that the domestic killing came during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic while stay-at-home orders were in place.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence is something that will be studied for many decades into the future,” said Francine M. Scoboria, communications coordinator at Safe Berks. “For most of us, our home is a safe haven from any problems or dangers in the world. However, for domestic violence victims living with violent abusers, home can be the most dangerous place of all.

“We believe that domestic violence has increased during the pandemic, but it is important to remember that domestic violence has been a public health crisis for generations. However, due to the stigma that exists around domestic violence, it is rarely discussed.”

When the pandemic first hit, calls to the Safe Berks 24-hour hotline dropped, Scoboria said.

She said the belief is victims were having a difficult time finding a safe place to call for help.

It makes sense. If you’re under stay-at-home orders, one’s abuser is always around, not leaving for work or other activities.

“As things opened up more in the summer of 2020, we experienced a higher number of calls, especially to our legal services and counseling departments,” she said.

Those staffers assist with obtaining protection-from-abuse orders as well as providing free and confidential counseling.

Participants, some holding red silhouettes to represent people who died as a result of domestic violence, make their way along Franklin Street from Safe Berks to RACC during the Safe Berks Silent Witness March. (BEN HASTY — READING EAGLE)

Despite the pandemic, individuals and groups in the community continued to reach out to Safe Berks, providing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, food, toiletries and other essentials so the staff could continue to work with survivors, Scoboria said.

That’s all part of the community’s increasing support of Safe Berks, which is seen in a variety ways, including a growing social media presence.

“There is no way we could provide our free services 24 hours every day without support from the community,” she said. “When we request something that we need on our social media, such as diapers, luggage or towels, supporters immediately help us meet those needs. During the past few years, we continue to break records in attendance and donations at our fundraising events and campaigns.”

But more than money and supplies are needed in the arsenal.

“I think the most important action a person can take is to educate themself about the issue of domestic violence so that they will notice red flags of abuse,” Scoboria said. “When anyone notices actual abuse or the red flags of abuse, it can be helpful to let the victim know that there are free services available at Safe Berks.”

Victims also can go to any local hospital at any time and ask to meet with a Safe Berks medical advocate, she said.

The Safe Berks Silent Witness March is meant to draw attention to domestic violence. Seventy-six people have died in Berks County as a result of domestic violence since 1999. (BEN HASTY — READING EAGLE)

Scoboria noted the agency operated as Berks Women in Crisis until 2016, when the name was changed to Safe Berks so it was clear that it serves all victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, not just women and not just in crisis situations.

All these efforts are meant to move domestic violence from the shadows to the spotlight.

“Domestic violence is not a private, family problem,” Scoboria said. “Domestic violence is a community problem. Domestic violence is a public health crisis. It affects all of us, and we need every member of the community to end it.”

Where to find help

•Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know are in immediate danger.

•To seek the help of an advocate or to contact Safe Berks, call the 24-hour hotline, 844-789-SAFE (7233) or text SAFE BERKS to 20121.

•Safe Berks provides free and confidential services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault 24 hours a day. All services are available in English and Spanish, and translation will be used for any other language needed.

•For more information about services, donating or volunteering go to

Source: Berkshire mont

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