Following the murder of 33-year-old Bayonne resident Mely Vanessa Tafoya Mendoza at the hands of her husband, Black in Bayonne called for the city to take action to provide stronger social services.
In response, the city council approved a resolution that allocated $25,000 to support “educational, intervention, and outreach programs to combat the issue of domestic violence” and formed the Bayonne Domestic Violence and Mental Health Task Force.
Since then, the organizations involved in the task force among others have been keeping the momentum going, working to raise awareness and provide resources to those affected by domestic violence. This included an “Resilient Women: Woke and Wise” event hosted by Wallace Temple AME Zion Church, a presentation by WomenRising at the March meeting of the Bayonne City Council, and the first meeting of the aforementioned task force, among other efforts from local organizations such as the candlelight vigil held by Black in Bayonne earlier in the month.
‘Resilient Women: Woke and Wise’
Rev. Dorothy Patterson of Wallace Temple told the Bayonne Community News that the event was about mental health and how it correlates to domestic violence.
“It’s all about mental health awareness and bringing understanding of how important that is that we are aware of what’s happening,” Patterson said. “In dealing with mental health, we’re dealing with domestic violence.”
Patterson said a number of issues relate to mental health, including domestic violence, and that it’s important to bring awareness to the problem and help provide the solution. At the event, Wallace Temple made known the various agencies available to provide domestic violence and mental health services, an informational skit was presented, and Pastor Bertha Reels of Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness spoke on the topic. There was also a yoga and spiritual healer present. Attendees were led in prayer and meditation. A selection of vendors was also present at the gathering.
There was a Friday game night before the quarterly event on Saturday, March 19 at the Bayonne Community Museum on Broadway. This month’s event had a theme of “Resilient Women: Woke and Wise,” in honor of Black History Month. According to Patterson, it was in part about “being a witness to other women.”
“There’s so many different levels to mental health that we often don’t take a look at. If you’re dealing with domestic violence, there’s something that you can actually see. So it’s important to not bring awareness to that and provide resources, but also for those other mental health issues related to that.”
Patterson said that the events are held every few months to ensure that change is occurring.
“This can’t just be one event, it must be a change in lifestyle,” Patterson said. “It must be an awareness that we have every single day of our lives that we’re looking at those things that could adversely affect us.”
Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness
Pastor Reels of Sarah’s Daughters also told BCN about the event and efforts regarding domestic violence. “It was in honor of Women’s History Month, to bring women out together,” Reels said. At the event, she spoke briefly on the impact of domestic violence on children.
“Domestic violence negatively impacts children,” Reels said. “It causes them post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety.”
Pastor Reels shared stories of children affected by domestic violence, some of whom spoke out when their parent didn’t want to. According to Reels, the damage from domestic violence in the household can seep into a child’s schooling.
“Domestic violence can cause children to be withdrawn in school,” Reels said. “It can lead to them not putting 100 percent effort into their schoolwork, for them to be depressed, or have low self-esteem.”
Reels also spoke about the warning signs, red flags that a relationship is abusive. She said that abusers often seek to control everything, from finances to time spent with friends or family.
“The batterer will put you down,” Reels said. “They will put fear in your heart and control you. The main thing want is control… They may prevent you from making your own decisions.”
Sarah’s Daughters offers a wide array of services for those affected by domestic violence. Call either 201-688-6794 or 732-318-4116 for more information.
Much of Reels’ speech echoed a presentation made by Margaret Adams, the Domestic Violence Response Team Coordinator for WomenRising in Hudson County, who spoke on domestic violence at the March city council meeting. She explained WomenRising and the slew of confidential services the group provides, including in Bayonne.
Adams said there are existing and also emerging resources for those affected by DV, such as the Domestic Violence Strangulation Response Team. Call 201-333-5700 for more information.
“Victims of domestic violence don’t believe that it’s severe, but there are a lot of complications that can arise even months later,” Adams said. “Victims of non-fatal strangulation are 800 times more likely to result in a homicide.”
Adams noted domestic violence can happen to anyone in any community, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
“One in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence,” Adams said. “So many people believe it’s a women’s issue. It’s everybody’s issue. Anyone can be a victim or survivor. Anyone could be an abuser. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in which one person gains and maintains power and control.”
Raising awareness and providing resources
Domestic violence is not just physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as in many other forms, according to Adams.
“The psychological and emotional abuse is just as damaging if not more damaging than the physical abuse,” Adams said. “It breaks down one’s self esteem over time.”
And it is a learned behavior, according to Adams, meaning the cycle often repeats itself.
“Children that are raised in homes where there’s domestic violence, they learned that’s acceptable behavior,” Adams said. “It’s generational.”
Adams said support systems and awareness and education are essential, because many do not escape abusive relationships the first time around.
“Statistically, it takes a victim or survivor seven to eleven times to leave the home, whether it’s a restraining order or going to a friend or family member’s home,” Adams said. “But they’re going to keep returning back.
Education and promotion of resources is key in the battle, especially since most victims and survivors report domestic violence before the age of 18.
“i believe the most important thing is educating our youth… We have to be reaching them. We have to be educated and we have to be supporting them.”
Other efforts ongoing
In addition to these organizations and their efforts, other entities including Black in Bayonne and the Bayonne Domestic Violence and Mental Health Task Force continue to put in the work.
The task force met for the first time following its formation. The virtual meeting was a success, as the organizations look forward to continuing to do the work in regards to domestic violence in Bayonne.
While those including Tafoya Mendoza are gone due to domestic violence, they will not be forgotten as forces within the city rally to promote awareness and provide resources to tackle the issue.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.