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District Attorney Andrea Harrington announced the creation of a Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force on Tuesday.

Harrington Launches Plan to Address Domestic, Sexual Violence

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Freeman Center Executive  Director Janis Broderick said domestic and sexual assault has been a growing problem in recent years and a lot more can be done.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Domestic and sexual violence has hit a "crisis level" according to District Attorney Andrea Harrington.
 
On Tuesday, she announced a new countywide Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force that will focus on curbing what is now growing numbers of sexual and domestic violence cases.
 
The task force will focus on outreach, securing new resources, and providing education and training throughout the Berkshires in an effort to prevent such crimes from happening.
 
"Domestic and sexual violence has reached a crisis point in Berkshire County. Together we will confront this growing crisis by building a healthy Berkshire County where we all can live safely and thrive," Harrington said.
 
Elizabeth Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick said the number of restraining orders requested in the county has grown by 15 percent since 2015, with 1,107 filings in 2018. That rate is 36 percent higher than the state average. 
 
Stockbridge, Adams, Pittsfield, and North Adams ranked first, third, fifth, and sixth in 2017 among the highest rate of rape per population, she said, and Pittsfield Police refer about 800 cases a year to the non-profit organization.
 
Further, from 2015 through 2018, there have been six cases in which a woman was murdered by a husband or ex-boyfriend, she said. The last domestic murder prior to that was in 2009, she said.
 
"Though it is hidden in homes, down long country roads, or it is silenced by shame, we in the Berkshires should know all too well that violence happens here, that it happens a lot, that it can happen to anyone, that it is horrific, it is terrifying, it is sometimes lethal and  it needs to be stopped," Broderick said.
 
The new internal task force will be guided by an 18-member steering committee. The initial membership of that steering committee is comprised of Harrington and Broderick and:
  • State Sen. Adam Hinds
  • Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard
  • North Adams City Councilors Benjamin Lamb and Marie Harpin
  • Pittsfield Police Officer Cheryl Callahan
  • Assistant District Attorney Megan Tesoniero
  • Director of Special Projects Helen Moon and Director of Victim Assistance Advocates Lisa McCue, from the DA's office
  • Meg Bossong, Williams College's director of sexual assault prevention and response
  • William Ballen, executive secretary of the Berkshire County Superintendents Roundtable
  • Ann Marie Carpenter, director of social emotional learning and student support for Pittsfield Public Schools
  • Elizabeth Freeman Center Shelter Director Jennifer Goewey
  • Railroad Street Youth Project Executive Director Ananda Timpane
  • Karran Larson, children's specialist and deaf recovery coach supervisor for the Massachusetts Committee for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Berkshire Medical Center Director of Emergency Services Kerri Hallas
"The task force and steering committee will enact a strategic plan to prevent domestic and sexual violence across our community and engage our community in action across multiple disciplines. Stakeholders will secure resources, raise awareness through outreach, education, and training," Harrington said.
 
The group will look to implement new strategies in the district attorney's office and build relationships among organizations currently working in the field.
 
"The district attorney's office will track sexual assault cases starting when they are filed, instead of when charges are brought. On-call advocates and prosecutors from the DA's office will be available to support police and medical providers in assisting victims of domestic and sexual assault. I have formed an internal team that is working to identify unindicted sexual assaults from the past with the intention of prosecuting perpetrators," Harrington said.
 
She said the efforts will focus on taking a "trauma-informed approach" and the implementation of a "high-risk initiative model" in Berkshire County. The group will take aim at training people throughout the county to recognize when someone is at risk of being either a victim or an abuser.
 
"Each day, we in the district attorney's office receive overnight reports from throughout Berkshire County documenting the trauma inflicted by domestic and sexual violence. These reports come with alarming and heartbreaking frequency," Harrington said.
 
"My team in the DA's office is committed to prosecuting abusers and is working to create a culture where victims are believed."
 
She said the office will be rolling out new training for law enforcement and advocates to better recognize signs of human trafficking and exploitation. Next month, 11 staff members will be certified as application assistants for the address confidentiality program -- a statewide program allowing victims of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault, to mask addresses with a fake one and limit information about someone's actual location.
 
"To better serve and protect victims of domestic and sexual violence, my office is collaborating with Secretary of State [William Galvin] to bring services to Berkshire County that have not yet been utilized in the past," Harrington said.
 
She added that she is working with the governor's office in developing a domestic violence fatality review with the goal of identifying areas where homicides could have been prevented. 
 
Broderick said the additional focus on the issue has been "a long time coming." Despite the Freeman Center having officers all over the county, having a presence in the courts and with Pittsfield Police and Adams Police, and assisting 1,800 survivors last year, she said a lot more needs to be done. The organization has been in existence since 1974 addressing both emergency and ongoing needs to domestic violence victims.
 
"This is not enough. All of us who do this work know this is not enough," she said.
 
Broderick particularly highlighted that the effort is both countywide and strategic. The announcement came fittingly in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Tags: district attorney,   domestic violence,   sexual assault,   task force,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 10-16

 

Welcome to Cultural Pittsfield's weekly guide featuring in-person and virtual classes and events, information, and more. If you are a Pittsfield business and would like your event listed, please email us at cultural@pittsfieldch.com. Thank you and be well!
TONIGHT - Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m.: Berkshire OLLI at BCC presents An Online Conversation with Jim Acosta. The Chief White House Correspondent for CNN will discuss "The Enemy of the People: One Year, One Impeachment, and One Pandemic Later," co-sponsored by Berkshire Gas and The Berkshire Eagle.

  FUN & LEARNING
NEW DATE! Pittsfield's first everDrive.Walk.Bike City Art Show will take place on Friday, July 10 from 4-8 p.m. Artists will be displaying their paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, fashions, sidewalk art, videos, and more on their porches, trees, lawns, and driveways, in their garages, or projected onto their homesView the list of participants and locations here!
Berkshire Theatre Group presents a virtual benefit performance live from Florence, Italy. Hershey Felder stars in Beethoven: A Play with Music on Sunday, July 12 at 8 p.m. 
Dramatizing Gerhard von Breuning's memoir, "Aus dem Schwarzspanierhaus," Felder brings Ludwig van Beethoven to life through the eyes of the Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by the Maestro's side. Featuring some of the composer's greatest works, Felder's Beethoven is an intense, illuminating journey. 
Plus...
Berkshire Artist Profiles NEW Jacob's Pillow Virtual Festival Learn from Home w/Berkshire Theatre Group | Classes w/Berkshire Music School Classes w/Berkshire Fitness & Wellness Center | Classes w/IS183 Art School | Painting Tutorials w/Berkshire Paint & Sip | Virtual Barrington Stage Classes w/Radiance Yoga | Classes w/Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness Classes w/Antil Fitness | Email aimee@gaiaroots.com for Online Drumming Classes | ONGOING Online Classes w/Berkshire OLLI | FRI 1Berkshire Town Hall: Reopening the Economy, Phase 3 | FRI DLE Virtual Culture Chat | MON WordXWord: Dancing in the Street Virtual Poetry Slam | WED I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone Live Stream | WED 1Berkshire Virtual Team Trivia | THU Live Storytelling w/BCC Alums

  FAMILY FRIENDLY
 
Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness is now offering its Radiant Child Yoga class at Brattle Farm. Kids of all ages are invited to join instructor Julie Pellerin-Herrera on Fridays, July 10, July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 from 10:15-11 a.m. Pre-registration is required as class space is limited. $15/class.
Berkshire Theatre Group presents Sunset Cinema, outdoor film screenings at Taconic High School. Drive up and enjoy family-friendly movies in the comfort and safety of your vehicle ($25/car). A food truck will be on site offering concessions! Friday, July 10: Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical. Saturday, July 11: The Wiz Live! Thursday, July 16: Jurassic Park.Friday, July 17: The Iron GiantSaturday, July 18: Coco.
Plus...

  SHOP LOCAL / EAT LOCAL
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