Saturday December 22, 2012

When Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, the mother of his baby, and then himself, the issue of domestic violence moved to the forefront in the nation -- along with our ongoing gun sickness. Newtown and the fiscal cliff now dominate the headlines, but domestic violence continues every day, as women are threatened, beaten and murdered without getting the headlines that abusive athletes attract.

Happily, there are organizations like the Elizabeth Freeman Center in the Berkshires to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse for the long haul. For the past six years, the center has worked with the office of Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless to collect old cell phones, which are then refurbished by the Verizon HopeLine project for distribution to people affected by domestic violence. The district attorney and center leaders recently gathered at the Berkshire Crossing Verizon store where the center was presented with a check for $2,000 for support programs and gift cards for people in the victims shelter.

While it is discouraging that so many adults and children are victims of domestic violence in the Berkshires, it is encouraging that, as Mr. Capeless and Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick said at a press conference in the store, an increasing number of victims are coming forward for help. The Hopeline project makes this easier to do as victims will have a way to contact friends, family, employers and the authorities without the knowledge of their abuser. Each phone comes loaded with 3,000 free minutes, and phones that would have been discarded and cluttered the environment enjoy useful second lives.

The Freeman Center and D.A.’s office are addressing domestic violence on a variety of fronts, but they can’t do it alone. Verizon’s Hopeline project is a way everyone with a cell phone they no longer need can pitch in. The Center can be reached at (413) 499-2425.