Help Network event honors crime victims

By Sean Barron


Fadia Ishak struggled to keep her emotions in check as she recalled having been a victim of domestic violence, which also entailed being separated from her four children.

Compounding her trauma was having come from a culture in her native Syria that denounced women who left their husbands – regardless of the level and type of abuse to which they may have been subjected.

“He broke my finger and kicked me a lot. I had a very bad relationship with him,” remembered Ishak, who shared her story of spousal abuse by her husband of 17 years during Wednesday’s two-hour luncheon at the Boardman Holiday Inn, 7410 South Ave., to honor crime victims.

Help Network of Northeast Ohio hosted the gathering, themed “Expand the circle, reach all victims.” The program also was part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which continues through Saturday.

Ishak, who was a teacher in Syria before emigrating to the U.S. in 1999, told her audience of victims-rights advocates, social workers and others that she sought help from Sojourner House Domestic Violence Shelter in Youngstown. The move paved the way for her to divorce her husband, reconnect with her children and file a protection order barring him from contacting her for five years, she explained.

Ishak’s story also highlights the urgency of victims of domestic violence and other crimes to know that a vast array of community and national resources are in place for them. Among those who stressed that point was Melissa Williams, a community-outreach officer with the Campbell Police Department and the program’s keynote speaker.

“I don’t want victims to ever forget that they’re not forgotten,” said Williams, who has received crisis-intervention training and is pursuing a criminal-justice degree from Youngstown State University.

Williams noted that victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, child and elder abuse and other crimes often face trauma that can lead to depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, mood swings and addiction. In addition, they can suffer secondary injuries such as isolation, others’ skepticism and judgments, not receiving justice and a lack of follow-up, she continued.

Domestic violence usually has entangled roots and happens in conjunction with continual manipulation as well as mental and emotional abuse, Williams said. So it’s critical that male and female victims develop the courage to talk about it with someone who will listen nonjudgmentally, paraphrase their feelings, respond to them with a calm and empathetic tone, exercise patience and concern and provide referrals, she stressed.

In addition, victims should call police, file a report, press charges with the local prosecutor and show up for court dates, she advised.

“Your mouth is the most powerful weapon. At the end of the day, you and your children are the most important,” Williams said.

For help, call Help Network at 211 or 330-747-2696.

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