Despite the closure several years ago of the island’s lone domestic violence agency, The St. John Community Crisis Center, there is help for victims of domestic violence.
The Family Resource Center’s social worker Annette Small is at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She is also available after-hours on her cell phone at (340) 514-1823.
“We are offering counseling services for domestic violence situations as well as victims of sexual assault and child abuse,” said Small.
Residents can call MKSCHC at (340) 693-8900 during office hours and ask to be connected to the Family Resource Center, Small added.
The Family Resource Center, which is based on St. Thomas where it operates a safe house for victims of domestic violence, opened its St. John office in June. Since then, Small has helped a number of clients, but feared that many residents were still unaware of the service.
“It’s going well up here,” said Small. “We’ve had a steady flow of clients but I still think we need to get the word out that we are up here and we’re here to help.”
While the community has made strides in bringing the issue of domestic violence out of the shadows, much still needs to be done to address the issue locally, Small explained.
“In the islands it’s still difficult for many people to talk about domestic violence,” said Small. “I think we still have a tendency to sweep this under the rug. But if we get people to break that silence and help make this topic not so taboo to discuss, we’re making progress.”
“We’re still working toward bringing domestic violence issues to the forefront,” Small said.
The Family Resource Center officials hosted a community event in Cruz Bay last month to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, yet were forced to relocate at the last minute due to construction at Frank Powell Park, Small explained.
“I know there were some people who didn’t make it because they couldn’t find us,” said Small. “We had to move from the park to the yard at Nazareth Lutheran Church at the last minute. But we still had something and to me that is a success.”
“We were still able to give out brochures and let people know that we are up at Myrah Keating,” Small said. “I’m glad that we were able to do something and didn’t have to cancel the event entirely. We thank the church for allowing us to use their yard area.”
Those in attendance also observed and learned about An Empty Place at The Table initiative, which serves as a visual reminder of the deadliness of domestic violence.
“The exhibit An Empty Place at the Table was born from a desire to grieve the loss and celebrate the lives of women and children who were killed in acts of domestic violence in Northeast Pennsylvania,” according to the Women’s Resource Center website www.wrcnepa.org. “In 1993, two women, Phyllis Mashie and Cindy Marshalek, and a child, Sheena Marie Jones, were killed within 22 days of each other as a result of domestic violence.”
Following those heinous crimes, local organizations in the Pennsylvania area rallied together and were determined to find a way to remember the lives of those lost to domestic violence. The groups were also inspired by The Dinner Party and the Quilt Project.
“An Empty Place at The Table draws its inspiration from Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, which represents women neglected in history, the Quilt Project, which memorializes victims of AIDS, and the book ‘A Place at the Table’ by Edith Konecky, which examines mental illness and the systematic oppression related to the illness,” according to the WRC website. “The social issues addressed by these examples parallel the role that social and political systems play in the oppression of women and the need for family and friends to remember their loved ones. Inspired by these concepts and the image of an empty place created by domestic violence homicide, volunteer Jane Kopas suggested developing an exhibit of a table with personalized place settings for each victim.”
“An Empty Place at the Table premiered in October 1993 at the Lackawanna County courthouse,” according to the website. “Tragically, domestic violence homicides continue to add place settings to the original Table.”
The project has been duplicated and shared across the United States and the USVI as a way to remember that domestic violence takes lives.
“The exhibition is a meaningful way to mourn the loss of each victim’s life,” said Small. “It also raises awareness about domestic violence and the impact of this crime on our communities. It is a way to ensure that these deaths are not forgotten.”
For more information about The Family Resource Center, call Small at (340) 514-1823.