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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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CARA Display Shows Many Locals Are Affected By Domestic Abuse

 

By Leslie Truluck

COURT HOUSE — A display of over 50 T-shirts hang on a figurative “clothesline” along the second floor hallway of Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC).
The display is centered by a mannequin that represents a battered woman with her arm in a sling and bandages on her wrist, torso and ankle. The mannequin “Sarah” is based on a real-life Cape May County resident who lost her life because of domestic violence.
Students stop and look at “Sarah” and the accompanying table of information.
A few discreetly grab pamphlets.
If “Sarah” could talk, she’d tell you that she slammed her arm into the car door, fell over a child’s toy, and the discoloration around her lip is the result of a bee sting. She would be too embarrassed to admit that her boyfriend got drunk and hit her, again.
The worst injury of all is the blow to her self-esteem and dignity when she believes that she had somehow provoked and/or deserved abuse.
This is the fourth year Cape May County Coalition Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) has displayed “Sarah” at the college to promote awareness about domestic violence for the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Those 50-plus T-shirts all represent local residents’ feelings about abuse. CARA staff, members and their children, as well as a few college students, designed them to express their feelings about domestic violence.
“It was a real team effort for all who took part,” CARA counselor Carol Realer said.
The mass of shirts exemplifies the number of locals who have been affected.
Freshmen students Dolores Troillo of Court House and Julie Grube of Rio Grande paused at the display table and the image of the beaten women.
“It’s scary to see what can happen,” Troillo said.
“It really makes you think about how often it occurs,” Grube said.
Lisa Apel-Gendron, director of academic and student services, told the Herald how the college and coalition have had “a really good partnership dating before the campus was built.”
ACCC students regularly collect personal care items to donate to the coalition’s safe home (for women in violent situations) and CARA routinely has guest speakers at the college.
“The clothesline display is a really cool way, on their part, to get the information out there in the words of those who have been there for real,” Apel-Gendron said. “It’s eye-opening to see how many people in our community have made these shirts. It brings it home.”
Through the display, students can anonymously get information about abuse.
“They don’t have to self-disclose to a brochure,” Apel-Gendron said.
However, resources are available for those who do seek support.
“Our agency is the only one of its kind in the county,” Realer said. “We do as much as we can to assist and advocate.”
Among many free confidential services offered, coalition counselors attend domestic court to support victims through the process of gaining a restraining order.
For students who have been fortunate to never have a personal experience with abuse, Apel-Gendron said the display introduces them to the global/local problem so that they can be better prepared and recognize abusive behavior as unacceptable.
“Maybe it will resonate with them later down the line and better prepare them to be safe and take care of themselves,” she said. “College is not just about what they learn in the classroom; it’s learning about the larger world.”
Similar displays are also at Ocean City, Lower Township and Woodbine public libraries.
CARA will hold a candlelight vigil to remember and honor all who lost their lives to domestic violence, under the flagpole at the Cape May County Campus, Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m., rain or shine.
Another vigil will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28 at Lighthouse Deliverance Ministries Church, 215 Washington Ave. in Woodbine.
All interested persons are welcome to both vigils.
CARA can be contacted via mail at P.O. Box 774, Court House, N.J. 08210 or at (609) 522-6489. A toll-free 24/7 hotline is available at 1-877-294-2272.
Visit www.cara-cmc.org to for services and volunteer info.
Contact Truluck at (609) 886-8600 ext. 24 or at: ltruluck@cmcherald.com.

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