Sunday, February 05
Along with the Big Game partying around television sets tonight, as the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Seattle Seahawks in Detroit, uglier action of a different sort may show itself in some Berkshire households.

Super Bowl Sunday typically sees an upsurge in domestic violence, counselors say.

"The drinking, the partying, the emotions that come into play when a team loses," plus money lost on bets, all contribute to an atmosphere in which violence can erupt, Gina Nuvallie, hotline coordinator for the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield told me Friday.

Although she had no statistics to offer, Nuvallie said "we anticipate getting a high call volume and will be prepared."

The Freeman Center operates a 24-hour hotline that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can call for advice and referrals and even shelter.

The number for Central Berkshire is (413) 443-0089; for North Berkshire, (413) 663-9709; and South Berkshire, (413) 243-1119.

  • Along the same lines, but new this year in the region is the Shalom Task Force Abuse Hotline sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and Project Tikva.

    The hotline is part of an effort, Jewish Federation Director Alene Schiff told me Thursday, to counter the belief that "domestic violence does not take place in Jewish households."

    She said the task force has been organizing here for about a year and that Berkshire rabbis were addressing the issue with their congregations this weekend as part of a "Domestic Violence Awareness Shabbat" leading up to the Super Bowl today.

    Like Nuvallie, Schiff said she had no firm statistics, but has anecdotal evidence that domestic violence peaks on Super Sunday.

    She said the confidential hotline — toll-free 1 (888) 883-2323 — is a national one based in Manhattan, so victims needn't fear being recognized by people they know locally if they call.

    The Berkshire project, she said, was inspired by a book on the topic, "Sins of Omission: The Jewish Community's Reaction to Domestic Violence," (Perseus Books, 2003) by Carol Goodman Kaufman, a Worcester psychologist who lives part time in the Berkshires and who spoke to numbers of Jewish groups here about the need for education and intervention.

    Those interested in working on the project are asked to contact Schiff at Federation headquarters (413) 442-4360 ext.12.