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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

May 16, 2019

“Because She Is” Offers Peer Support to Survivors of Abuse and Assault

By Joanne Colella

Maureen Richards Spataro because she is

For those who have been victims of physical, emotional and/or sexual assault or abuse, sharing their stories can be daunting. Some may still feel shame or fear facing stigma if other people knew. Some have kept the secret. Some struggle to forget. Some may still be victimized. But even for those who have received professional therapy or counseling services and seemingly gone on with their lives, the memory and the impact may linger, sometimes triggered unexpectedly while in the middle of trying to live an otherwise ordinary life.

because she is maureen nj

Maureen Richards Spataro understands all of that because she herself is a survivor of abuse throughout her life. Still, she resolutely went on to lead a full and busy life, keeping it all together – until she fell apart. The weight of what she had gone through led to a period of outpatient counseling. Upon her successful “graduation” from the program, she realized that despite the professional assistance she and others had received, there were no ongoing services or groups that offered a social network or day-to-day peer support if and when it was needed – similar, for instance, to those available through Alcoholics Anonymous, grief support groups or cancer programs.

She recalled a day when the outpatient participants would complete the phrase “She is…” with a descriptive word, and it was from that phrase that she created “Because She Is,” an organization that provides peer support for survivors, with survivors, led by a volunteer team that are also survivors. Determined and inspired, she began speaking publicly a little over two and a half years ago about her experiences, addressing audiences of both women and men. In her presentations, she somehow manages to eloquently combine gritty, sometimes brutally honest accounts with insightful sensitivity and advice, along with disarming humor that probably few others could add so well to such a weighty topic. Her talks were well-received and the word began to spread. Survivors and supporters started to reach out to her, sharing their own experiences.

In September 2018, Because She Is moved into its first home, fulfilling Spataro’s childhood dream of establishing a haven where those who had been victims of assault and abuse could feel safe, secure, and surrounded by support from others who know what it’s like to share similar experiences, thoughts, and emotions, without judgement. It is called Marilyn’s Place, named in honor of a generous benefactor who helped fund the startup through a legacy. For the first six months, it was located at a rental property in Middletown, NJ. In March 2019, Marilyn’s Place moved to its new and lovely official home in Sayreville, offering a warm and welcoming environment that hosts peer support group meetings, programs, and special activities. It is conveniently located and easily accessible for attendees that come from throughout Middlesex and Monmouth Counties.

Run entirely by volunteers, all of them survivors themselves, meetings are held weekly and are completely free. Since opening its doors, Marilyn’s Place has welcomed dozens of women who come not for a shelter, professional counseling, or therapy (although information can be provided to those who need those services), but simply for a chance to relax, talk, laugh, and sometimes cry with understanding peers in a casual, homelike atmosphere. There have also been special activities such as clinician-led workshops, yoga and meditation programs, arts and crafts classes, social gatherings, and more – all at no cost. The privacy of attendees, as well as the location of Marilyn’s Place, is kept confidential and those interested are asked to contact Because She Is by phone to speak with a board member for more information.

“It’s about going from surviving to thriving, providing a place for resilient women to move on with their lives, form bonds, and get through the painful times that may catch them by surprise – and to rediscover the strongest person they know: themselves,” Spataro said.

Benefit Concert

On Sunday, May 19 at House of Independents, 572 Cookman Ave. in Asbury Park, there will be a concert to benefit Because She Is. Tickets are $15 in advance through HouseOfIndependents.com and $18 at the door. Doors open at 4 pm. Organized by award-winning Jersey shore hip-hop artist and spoken word poet Chris Rockwell and Brian Morelli, the popular on-air personality with Thunder 106 Radio, the concert will feature a terrific lineup of performers. They will include The Godlings, a progressive surf rock band; hip-hip artist King Ramses; 3 Cheers Too Late, an alternative pop punk band; and We’re Ghosts Now, an indie/alternative/rock group. Also appearing will be Natalie Farrell, a singer known for her mix of soul, rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock; R&B funk-rock favorites Des & The Swagmatics; and the Chris Rockwell Collective.

Donovan’s Reef Raffle

On Saturday, June 22 from 12 to 6 pm, Because She Is will be at Donovan’s Reef, 1171 Ocean Ave. in Sea Bright, selling raffle tickets for Donovan’s gift certificates and a 50/50 drawing.

Fall “Blingo” & Gift Auction

On Friday, September 13, Because She Is will host a Fall “Blingo” & Gift Auction fundraiser. It will be held at the beautiful Madison Park Banquet Hall, 3011 Cheesequake Rd. in Parlin. Doors open at 6:30 pm and games begin at 7:30 pm. Come and play bingo to win some jewelry bling!Tickets go on sale Wednesday, May 15 and will include bingo cards, dabbers, a starter bag of raffle prize tickets, as well as a delicious hot buffet dinner. Guests can also purchase additional raffle and 50/50 tickets that night. Make your reservations early at a discount! Tickets ordered from May 15 through July 31 are $55 per person. Starting August 1, tickets will be priced at $60 per person.

Because She Is is a registered 501(3)c nonprofit organization and is accepting donations. Long-term fundraising goals include being able to add a trauma clinician to the staff for those who cannot afford professional therapy, provide additional support groups for families of trauma survivors, and using the organization’s unique model to establish other locations, all free.

Spataro also welcomes the chance to speak to more people to spread awareness. Contact her about visiting your organization, club, business, networking group, school, or congregation.

For more information, visit BecauseSheIs.org, follow Because She Is on Facebook, email info@becausesheis.org, or call Kelly at 732-962-3115.