Friday, October 29, 2010

MGH Domestic Violence Working Group highlights awareness and prevention

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS: From left, Tracy, Jennifer Yerdon, BSW, of DOVE, Inc., DeBenedictis, and Casey Corcoran, MEd, of the Boston Public Health Commission's Start Strong Program

Statistics indicate that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. To raise awareness of this sobering fact and highlight the importance of domestic violence prevention, the MGH Domestic Violence Working Group (DVWG) hosted several events throughout October, which is acknowledged nationally as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

DVWG comprises HAVEN (Hospitals Helping Abuse and Violence End Now), MGH Police and Security, and the Partners Employee Assistance Program. On Oct. 5 and 6 the group hosted an information table in the White Lobby where volunteers distributed pamphlets in several languages to passersby about how to recognize possible domestic violence and refer individuals to resources for help. On Oct. 13, DVWG hosted "Did You Know Massachusetts Has a New Law to Protect Victims?" in the Thier Conference Room, with guest speakers Maureen Gallagher, policy director of Jane Doe, Inc., and Colby Bruno, Esq., managing attorney of the Victim Rights Law Center. They presented information on the new Massachusetts law that offers protection for victims of harassment and stalking.

A highlight of the monthlong awareness campaign took place Oct. 20 with the presentation of the Unsung Hero Awards, which recognize MGH employees who have worked to enhance the MGH's response to domestic violence. Recipients were Erin Tracy, MD, MPH, of MGH Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology and Lenny DeBenedictis, LICSW, CEAP, of the Partners Employee Assistance Program. Tracy was honored for her commitment to educating and training medical providers on screening, intervening and properly documenting domestic violence. DeBenedictis was honored for co-founding MGH's Men Against Abuse in 2005 and facilitating this group over the past five years. The last award was given to MGH Imaging for the department's generous donations to the HAVEN Holiday Gift Drive throughout the years.

Following the awards ceremony, guests participated in an interactive conversation, "Teens Taking Action Against Dating Violence: Innovative Approaches to Teen Dating Violence Prevention," with local organizations, including the Boston Public Health Commission's Start Strong Program, DOVE, Inc. and Youthspeak. Panelists discussed ways they are working to change how teens approach and think about healthy dating relationships.

"We were pleased to host these events for the MGH community, which includes our patients, staff and visitors," says Elizabeth Speakman, LICSW, director of HAVEN. "We are closer to our goal of increasing awareness of domestic violence, including the importance of screening and responding appropriately to disclosures. Domestic violence is a health care issue, and it's important that providers have the most up-to-date information on prevention and intervention."

For more information about DVWG and domestic violence prevention and awareness, contact Speakman at 617-726-7674 or or visit

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