FITCHBURG — As part of the police department’s Walk Against Domestic Violence on Thursday, Mayor Stephen DiNatale declared October “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” in the city.
Held in partnership with the Leominster Police Department, Leominster’s Spanish American Center and YWCA Central Massachusetts, the walk was meant to honor both victims and survivors of domestic violence. DiNatale joined Police Chief Chief Ernie Martineau, members of the FPD and LPD as well as other community activists as they marched down Main Street from the FPD to City Hall, where he made the proclamation.
“I, Stephen L. DiNatale, Mayor of the city of Fitchburg, do hereby proclaim the month of October of 2022 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city of Fitchburg,” DiNatale said. “I urge our citizens to work together to eliminate domestic violence
Later, DiNatale said the city has long promoted domestic violence victim advocacy and praised the services of the FPD, LPD, SAC and YWCA. Martineau stressed how important it is to not only recognize domestic violence but aid victims however possible.
“Fitchburg is a city that, for as long as I can remember, has had that domestic violence victim advocate that works with the police department,” DiNatale said. “It’s a big component of what we do here and in Leominster and it’s so important that we have those programs in place.”
“I think it’s important that we recognize the struggle that has continued, not only in Fitchburg but throughout the commonwealth and country at large, for victims of domestic violence,” Martineau said. “We’re at a stage where we recognize how serious (domestic violence) is and we’re taking every step we can to curtail it.”
As part of its Family Services Unit, the FPD employs an civilian advocate, Raysa Guerrero, that assists victims of domestic violence by connecting them with necessary services and promoting a complete and proper support structure for each individual victim. Hired in 2020, Guerrero oversaw a 17% decrease in domestic violence-related cases in the city from 327 cases in 2020 to 271 in 2021.
At city hall on Thursday, she thanked those that took part in the walk as well as fellow domestic violence advocates in attendance for the “important” work they do.
Martineau also noted that, on their walk, the group passed by the Fitchburg District Court. He said that part of the march was “unique” and “very important” before he again praised Guerrero and other domestic violence advocates in the community.
“The courthouse, that’s where victims become survivors, so I thought it was important that we went by there,” Martineau said. “Those victims, they get there through the help of our advocates — we couldn’t have done this today without the work that they do.”
Martineau said the FPD would “continue to fight” until there are “no more victims” of domestic violence. He and DiNatale both said the “goal” was to eliminate domestic violence completely within the city.
“The goal is to eliminate (domestic violence) altogether and, it may take some time, but we believe we’re on our way here in Fitchburg,” DiNatale said.
A similar walk is expected to take place at 1 p.m. in Leominster on Wednesday, Oct. 19. according to LPD Domestic Violence Liason Lesly Borges. Like the Fitchburg walk, Borges said the walk will start at the LPD.
If you or someone you know may need domestic violence resources, support is available. Borges, the FPD Family Services Unit or the Massachusetts’ SafeLink Domestic Violence Hotline at 978-962-3422, 978-343-4551;1265 or 877-785-2020, respectively. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.