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Page 4 NEWFOUNDLAKELIFE.COM October 2023 Community October, A Month of Awareness and Action
 By William nieman
October 2nd is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. Appropri- ately, the United Nations has designated his birthday as “The International Day of Non-Vi- olence.” In acknowledging this UN resolution, many federal, state, and local organizations have named October as Violence Awareness Month. In keeping with that theme, the following article focuses on violence in our nation, in our local communities, and what we can do about it.
The United States, by any account, is a great and generous country populated by people who are well-intentioned, civil, and friendly. However, many in our land are challenged by an undercurrent of frustration, fear, and anger that gives rise to per- sonal and societal episodes of vi- olence. This violence is expressed in domestic circumstances, in mass killings and outbursts of “domestic terrorism” against or- dinary citizens, political targets, and even the government itself. One can add to these “emotive expressions” of anger the ubiq- uitous violence associated with crime and suicide, as well as the infrequent attacks of interna- tional terrorists.
Every academic discipline and homegrown ideology has explanations for this violence. These explanations include the legacy of biological and cultural evolution to the easy access to guns and to untreated mental illness. Some theorists cite the breakdown or loss of faith in contemporary institutions such as the nuclear family or agencies of government. Others blame
the abandonment of traditional adherence to gender roles and spousal relationships. The se- duction and dissemination of expressive anger by social and mass media has received its share of the blame, as well. These at- tempts to explain the undercur- rent of violence are important steps in crafting antidotes to at- tenuate this sad circumstance. However, explanations without action are fruitless. During this month, we need to discover and employ strategies to prevent vio- lence, to lessen the physical and emotional injury to so many, to ourselves perhaps, or to our rela- tives, friends, and neighbors.
We need to begin this effort with an understanding that vio- lence has plagued the Newfound Region with its share of hurtful, even deadly consequences. In other words, for us, it is a real menace, not a faceless statistic. Underscoring our vulnerability is a survey conducted by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Of the re- sponders, 50% (women) said they had been victims of violent acts by men. (The prevalence of males as perpetrators of vio- lence in the Newfound Region is reflected in the fact that 90% of Grafton County’s 122 jails are male inmates whose court re- cords usually include protective and or restraining orders as well as orders against stalking.)
While it seems clear that our region is not exempt from epi- sodes of domestic violence, can we not, at least, breathe easily that we have escaped from the violence and the horror of do- mestic terrorism? Sadly we have suffered from this abhorrent
activity as well. Ten years ago, in April, two brothers whose lives had been tainted with an- ti-American ideology and whose nuclear family was a case study in domestic dysfunction vented the accumulation of their rage by setting off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon. Among those killed was a young boy whose family made its sum- mer residence in Bristol, on New-
and adequate resources. Among these organizations, perhaps Voices Against Violence, head- quartered in Plymouth, is the most active in articulating the threat of domestic violence lo- cally and in implementing strat- egies and protocols to meet that threat. Voices Against Violence (VAV) has developed and refined its activities from experiences learned since its founding in
support groups, and a quarterly newsletter, as well as educational and outreach programs. During the year, and especially during October, VAV sponsors aware- ness and fundraising events. Bristol residents are familiar with “Dancing With The Stars,” held in July. There are many candle- light vigils throughout the state in October; Plymouth observes this ritual on October 19.
In summing up her greatest concern about the vulnerability of all, but especially women, to an episode of deadly domestic violence, Meg Kennedy Dugan underscores gun possession as the most obvious “red flag.” VAV’s Executive Director points out that “a domestic abuse victim is five times more likely to be killed by an abuser if there is a gun in the home.” As I write this, I recall another image from past days on Newfound Lake, not of a young boy tubing but of an older man, a suicide victim, lying prostrate below the bridge on West Shore Road where the lake feeds the Newfound River. Blood was dry- ing by his head. A pistol lay at his side. He was obviously suffering from depression, but perhaps if he had no access to that gun, he would still be enjoying a swim in the lake’s clear waters. I couldn’t agree with Meg Kennedy Du- gan’s concern more emphatically.
It is reassuring that we have or- ganizations effectively confront- ing periodic episodes of violence. We can take part in the local ef- fort by volunteering or making monetary contributions to Voices Against Violence. Just think of it, we really can do something tan- gible in response to October’s call for awareness and action.
*Bill, Denise, Henry, and Jane Richard’s dedication to peace and non-violence in Martin’s memory is an inspirational story. (Martin Richard Foundation, )
Thanks to Meg Kennedy Dugan for her help in providing knowledgeable insights about do- mestic violence generally, as well as its special challenge in Grafton County. To help...www.voice-
The photo is of the sculpture “The Knotted Gun” by Carl Fredrik Reutersward.
 The Knotted Gun.
found Lake. (I recall a summer or two before that horrible incident riding in a boat, watching the joy of that young boy, Martin Rich- ard, as he bounced, laughing and screaming while tubing in the boat’s wake.) The other members of the Richard family* survived the bombing, but Martin’s mom, dad, and sister suffered serious injuries. Although the bombing took place a hundred miles from Newfound Lake, it was our sum- mer neighbors who lost a child, a loss that brought grief and sad- ness to many friends in the New- found community.
Awareness that we are not secure from mass violence is an important insight but does little to alleviate our frustration that there is not much that we, as in- dividuals in a small New Hamp- shire community, can do about it. However, when it comes to facing the plague of domestic violence, we have the wherewithal to meet this more intimate and proximate challenge. There are many local, state, and volunteer agencies armed with effective programs
1981. VAV is served by a staff of 8 professionals and 20 volunteers guided by Meg Kennedy Dugan, the program’s Executive Direc- tor. All staff and volunteers who interact with clients have com- pleted 30 hours of state-man- dated training. In the past twelve months, over 750 women have been or are being helped through threatening circumstances or vi- olent experiences by VAV. This assistance and these interventions have included sexual assault sup- port, police interrogation guid- ance, medical access assistance, court, and legal advocacy, guid- ance in completing the necessary petitions for restraint, protective orders, stalking petitions, etc. Assistance also can include fi- nancial help to secure victim au- tonomy, therapeutic counseling, and in some cases, the security of VAV’S Grafton County safe house. Voices Against Violence maintains a 24-hour hotline. It provides emergency “walk-in service” for individuals. For the general public and clients, there are informational presentations,
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