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YOUNGSTOWN AWARE program to help victims of domestic violence



Published: Tue, May 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Violence in the home causes some children to suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome, an expert said.

By SEAN BARRON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- As a child, the Rev. Alfred Coward watched his father beat his mother.

Police were called, but did little more than try to calm things down.

At 16, he literally stood between his fighting parents. He vowed then he would never hit his wife or children.

Domestic violence is still the Rev. Mr. Coward's mission. He wants to make a difference to women caught in the cycle of violence.

In March, Mr. Coward, chairman of the Mayor's Task Force on Crime and Violence Protection, brought together ADT Security Services, police and domestic violence agencies to address the problem.

Wednesday, Mr. Coward, Mayor George McKelvey, Youngstown Police Chief Richard Lewis and representatives of ADT and Sojourner House Battered Persons Crisis Center are to announce an innovative program to aid victims of domestic violence.

What's planned: The program, called AWARE -- Abused Women's Active Response Emergency -- will be explained during a press conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday in city council chambers.

ADT, the country's largest home security company, will provide free equipment, installation and monitoring to domestic violence victims. A task force will help determine who qualifies for the services.

Task force members are Delphine Baldwin-Casey of the Youngstown Police Department's crisis intervention unit, Malinda Gavin of Sojourner House and Jackie Tate of Northeast Ohio Legal Service's Valu Program.

Victims will be given a device to wear around the neck so they can summon help quickly. The pager-type pendant activates a silent alarm to the nearest police department, which makes such calls a priority.

Victims must have a phone, a civil protection order and must follow through on police complaints.

What's next: The ADT program is being tested first in Youngstown, but other Mahoning County police agencies will be able to target those they think need the services in their jurisdictions. Gavin and Tate will work with those departments, Baldwin-Casey said.

Gavin said most victims stay in the home, often with a protection order, or rely on family support. Most of Sojourner House's clients have exhausted all their resources, said Kristen Macaluso, program director.

Abusers will use fear tactics to keep the woman at home, Macaluso said. "Usually the root characteristics of an abuser are insecurity and fear of abandonment. They also feel threatened by [the woman's] independence," she added.

On the other end, victims come to accept the person abusing them as separate from the person they love through a process known as "splitting." That make leaving a violent relationship especially difficult, she said.

Physical abuse may be absent in some abusive relationships, but verbal abuse is almost always present and often takes long-term counseling to undo the emotional scars, Macaluso said.

Effect on kids: Such violence is also just beginning to be understood in terms of its effects on children. Like soldiers returning from war, kids often suffer post-traumatic stress disorder when they witness such events, according to Dr. Robert Felter, a pediatrics expert at Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital.

About 5 million children each year suffer PTSD, many of whom are in the middle of domestic violence, Felter said. Symptoms include depression, withdrawal from friends and a drop in grades.

barron@vindy.com




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