By Jennifer McClain
A vigil to highlight the problem of domestic violence was held Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 in the newly built Malden Police station’s community room, a place created to make the police more “accessible and transparent,” in the words of Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis. The vigil was held by the domestic violence agency RESPOND in collaboration with the Malden government, Malden police and the Malden Zonta club.
“Today’s vigil is certainly a time to reflect and remember those who have lost their lives but it is also a time to raise awareness on this topic,” said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, one of the officials and community leaders who attended. Christenson praised RESPOND for being “a pioneer in the movement to end domestic violence.” RESPOND “is New England’s first domestic violence agency and the second oldest in the nation,” the mayor said.
Christenson also said it was important to recognize the successful joint effort of the Malden Police force and the community organizations in concert with local Malden city government. Christenson noted that, in the past year, Malden had a staggering 800 calls, 250 restraining issues and 75 harassment prevention orders.
District 1 Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Hart from Malden Zonta said that the partnership between Zonta and RESPOND was strong. She talked about the many successful events with RESPOND that have raised awareness for “gender based violence.” Zonta’s current international mission is “Say No to Domestic Violence.” She emphasized that the value of events such as vigils is the opportunity to tell the victims’ stories.
“Each one of these women have a story and their story needs to be told,” Hart said. Many of these stories — all brutal and violent — were written on a card and placed on a display table next to a candle.
Chief Molis said teamwork was necessary for success; this is the “best example of when good intentions come together and good things happen,” he said.
One of those successes was the hiring a Malden police detective specifically for domestic violence. This detective, officer Elijah McNeal, was singled out for praise at this event for his “compassion.” Molis also expressed “gratitude for what RESPOND brings to Malden.”
Jessica Brayden, Chief Executive Officer of RESPOND, said Malden was fortunate to have a very dedicated team. The members of the audience nodded when Chief Molis said that “tragedies have occurred” but “lives have been saved.”
The vigil concluded with a reading of the “tragedies” from September of last year until now by Amanda Reicmuth, Chief Programs Officer of RESPOND. Amanda Reichmut read the names of the 19 victims who lost their lives this year. A moment of silence followed.
The event was a moment of reflection and gratification and a renewed commitment to this “public health issue” of domestic violence for all who attended. In his statements, the mayor expressed his hope to see a safe shelter in Malden, in partnership with RESPOND, that could offer support services, training and education for residents impacted by domestic violence. He reiterated Ms. Brayden’s statement that, “children who witness abuse many times go on to abuse” and that fact is “affecting our future.”