Breaking the silence about domestic violence

October 4, 2023

It is a sad fact that millions of people across the country cannot consider home a safe haven. So many people suffer in silence behind the closed doors of their homes and in their communities, no one knowing the fear and stress they experience daily. Domestic violence programs and helplines across the country experienced a surge in recorded calls and requested support during the recent pandemic, as the options for escape narrowed for those trapped in abusive relationships. While the crisis of the pandemic may be over, those who suffer in silence still exist. Consider the statistics:

  • 1 out of every 3 or 4 people have experienced severe domestic violence from a partner in their lifetime. However, we know that most cases are never reported.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all reported crimes and 1 in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence annually.
  • On a typical day, 20,000 calls are placed to Domestic Violence Hotlines, while nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by their partner, totaling 10 million people.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior toward an intimate partner in a romantic or family relationship, wherein the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. It can be physical, emotional, economic, or sexual in nature. Incidents are rarely isolated and usually escalate in frequency and severity – sometimes resulting in serious physical injury or even death. The devastating physical, psychological, and emotional aftermath of the abuse can span generations and last for a lifetime.

On average, it takes a victim seven attempts to permanently leave an abusive relationship. It may be hard for people to understand the barriers that exist for domestic violence victims. Make no mistake, the list of barriers is significant, and the power exerted is unlawful and central to the control over those who suffer. Barriers include fear, intimidation, low self-esteem, lack of finances and other resources, shame – and yes, even love! To complicate the situation further, many victims grew up in environments where abuse was normal and may not recognize the benchmarks of a healthy relationship.

Innate in the process of abuse is the creation of a small world. Abusers not only control their victims through financial power and emotional control, but they often have also isolated them from their family and friends. The victim’s world becomes small, and they often have nowhere to go for support or guidance.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It happens to everyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, or socioeconomic status and it is likely that everyone knows someone affected by it. Right now, your family member, friend, colleague, or neighbor might be suffering in silence.

JFCS is committed to ending the cycle of abuse through our Project SARAH (Stop Abusive Relationships at Home) domestic violence program. While “typical” domestic violence programs can support victims only after they have left, Project SARAH is unique. We often begin our work while our clients are still living with their abusers. Recognizing the complex web of difficulties that victims face, we always strive to meet them wherever they are at any given time.

Donna* was still married to her abusive husband when she first came to JFCS. She wanted to leave but didn’t know how to take that crucial first step. We validated her feelings and let her know that she wasn’t alone. Throughout those early months, we met often and practiced safety planning while she still lived in her house. One night, Donna suffered unimaginable physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband. This was the catalyst for her to leave: she went to the police and reported the abuse. JFCS was with her every step of the way.  

Once Donna made the decision to leave, our plan went into effect. We provided her with a place to live – our “Charlotte’s Place” safe house apartment – while she looked for more permanent housing. She received food from our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry and counseling through our Faye Manger Counseling Department. She attended our SARAH Supports group, where she found a community of other women who have faced similar struggles. It took time and a lot of hard work, but Donna is now safe and building a new future. She recently shared these powerful words of thanks with us:

“There is nothing I can say that would fully express my gratitude for everything you have done for me, including putting up with my stress and anxiety as I shared how bad it was getting. Having someone to talk to, who supported me no matter what happened, even when I didn’t leave or go to the police, meant so much. For years, I pushed away friends and family. I felt utterly alone and stuck, without anyone on my side. You gave me the push to leave. The support and advice you gave me when I shared that I was assaulted helped me get through the grueling process with the police. I’m so happy I did go through with everything, and I owe that to you all. I am so looking forward to rebuilding and growing and finding myself again. Thank you!” 

Donna’s journey fills me with such pride. I’m proud of her for finding the courage to persevere and survive. I’m proud that our staff was able to provide Donna with life-saving services. Our domestic violence coordinators, Hilary Platt and Marci Rosenstein, are tireless advocates. They go above and beyond to ensure that our clients have a safe place, either in their own homes or in the community. When Hilary and Marci are not with our clients, they can be found in area schools teaching children about the hallmarks of healthy relationships and working to prevent abuse before it even begins.  

Sadly, Donna’s story is not unique. In the past year, Project SARAH has served almost 90 clients through case management, housing, support groups, mental health counseling, financial assistance, advocacy, resource referrals, and more – offering unconditional compassion, kindness, and grace. I am so grateful to Hilary, Marci, and the entire JFCS staff for bringing hope and healing to so many in our community.

No one ever deserves to be abused, and we all have a part to play in ending the cycle of abuse. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month – and all year long – we can come together as a community to raise awareness. We can reach out to friends or loved ones to offer a listening ear and a helping hand. While there is no easy solution to stop the cycle of abuse, we can all encourage those who are struggling to take that vital first step and reach out for help.

If you want to help victims of domestic violence in our own community, reach out and we can connect you to SARAH Supports, a group of people who come together to rally resources and services for those in need. Also, if you need help yourself or know of someone in need, please call JFCS at (856) 424-1333 and ask for Sarah. All calls are strictly confidential. If you need a 24-hour crisis line, please call:
Camden County – (856) 227-1234

Burlington County – (856) 234-8888

Providence House – (800) 246-8910

Gloucester County – (856) 881-3335

National Domestic Violence Hotline – (800) 799-7233

One fact remains: as we fight these battles and work to make this world a better place, we are stronger together! For more information or to connect further about how you can help improve our world and end domestic violence, please email me at or (856) 424-1333.


*Names changed to protect individuals’ confidentiality.