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

Oct 05, 2017

“Press Pause” Presents Survivor’s Story to Benefit Others

By Joanne Colella

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) is observed each year in October. It evolved from what was originally a Day of Unity held in October 1981, then became an entire week devoted to a range of activities and initiatives at the local, state, and national level. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed, with three common themes: mourning those who have died due to domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived, and connecting those who work to end violence.

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, threats, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other physical or emotional abusive behavior as part of a systemic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner or family member against another. It impacts women, men, and children of every age, race, socioeconomic status, background, and belief. Victims are deprived of their autonomy, liberty, and security, and face tremendous threats to their health and safety. While physical marks may often be the most obvious signs of the harm caused by domestic violence, the true extent of the pain goes much deeper. Victims not only face abuse, but often find themselves left with significant financial insecurity. And children who witness domestic violence often experience lifelong trauma.

Monmouth County resident Maureen Spataro believes the treatment of victims of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse needs to include not just immediate assistance, but ongoing support for survivors. This month, she’s bringing that message home in a very personal way with a one-woman presentation to be held on Friday, October 20. She explains, “I received treatment as an outpatient at a local facility that helped me cope with the abuse I experienced. The information and support I received was invaluable, but when I was healthy and treatment was complete, I left the program and the only follow-up I had was to attend private counseling. I spent three months in groups with other trauma victims at a safe and supportive clinic, and suddenly I was on my own again. The first six months were terrifying. I struggled to implement what I learned in my daily life and although I was successful, there were others who ended up having to return to the program.”

Maureen spoke with a family member who had sought help in a facility for his alcoholism. “When he left the in-patient program he attended, he had to find a sponsor and a group to attend meetings. He was surprised there wasn’t any type of program in place for victims of abuse. He credited having a community of others who knew exactly what he was thinking and feeling with getting him through the first couple of weeks after leaving treatment.”

Maureen started speaking to groups of victims and survivors after being invited back to the very facility she credits with saving her life. From the responses to those events, she realized trauma survivors, particularly those who survived sexual and physical abuse, needed more than just the medical community to truly heal. “Clinicians and therapists are invaluable, but there is nothing more powerful than sitting across from someone you know has experienced the shame, guilt, and pain of sexual trauma,” she states. “There are many wonderful facilities that can get victims on their feet, but it’s the aftercare that lacks. There isn’t a clear-cut program that deals with continuing self-care. The only option is to see a therapist or find a church group. What I’d love to do is find a way to raise money to fund a facility for victims run by survivors. A place where victims can come for the comfort and support needed early in recovery that will recommend facilities and clinicians, but also provide programs and support. A safe place to land when the effects of their trauma require more than a call to a hotline or answering service. But you have to crawl before you can run.”

Maureen has begun to put plans in motion for creating just such a place and is starting by hosting her own event, called “Press Pause.” It’s the powerful – and empowering – story of her experiences and attempts at healing from her traumas. Proceeds of the evening will go towards the project currently underway, called She Is. She explains the genesis of the name, saying, “The project/non-profit I am getting off the ground is called She Is. The premise began with a gift I was given. A friend made a necklace with the phrase ‘She Is Brave,’ and although I felt anything but brave, she gave it to me because that was how she saw me. It was the first time I ever allowed myself to feel proud of myself, or something I accomplished.” After having two more necklaces made for young women that she had briefly met when speaking to survivors’ groups and seeing the positive effect they had, “I began to think about how I could continue to reach others in a positive but impactful way, and asked some close friends and family to try something and complete the phrase ‘She Is…’ with a word or phrase they felt described them. I was floored by how difficult it was for all of them to do it! Some were survivors, some were not, and the survivors had the hardest time. I encouraged all of them to participate, and to get the ball rolling, I posted ‘Brave’ on a secret Facebook page I hastily put up. The same day, someone else posted their word, ‘Progressing;’ then another word, ‘Worthy;’ and another word, ‘Authentic.’ I figured out a way to gently encourage them to examine how they felt about themselves, and to proudly share who they were.”

Maureen adds, “A victim is someone that has something done to or taken from them without their permission. It takes patience and work to get back on your feet. Being able to express those emotions with someone who knows those emotions firsthand is cathartic in ways that simply cannot be defined. Having that support in a safe place is priceless.”

All are invited to attend this important, inaugural one-woman presentation. “Press Pause” will be held on Friday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Madison Park Banquet Hall, 3011 Cheesequake Road in Parlin (Old Bridge). Tickets are $15 and all proceeds will go toward the She Is Project, a nonprofit organization currently being established, with the purpose of providing a safe haven for survivors of sexual abuse, assault, rape, and domestic violence that is run by survivors. To purchase tickets in advance, contact Tickets will also be available at the door.