Berkshire Eagle, Oct. 16: State designates BMC a “SANE Hospital”

BMC joins Elizabeth Freeman Center in bid to curb domestic violence

By Phil Demers, Berkshire Eagle staff

Cheryl Re, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Mary Walz-Watson


PITTSFIELD — Drugs, poverty and homelessness all contribute to a higher incidence of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Berkshire County, per capita, than in much of the rest of Massachusetts, according to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

To help turn that around, Berkshire Medical Center soon will become part of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, a new initiative launched by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker.

“Victims can go to this hospital and get the right response that he or she needs,” Polito said Thursday during a visit to the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which provides services to victims of domestic violence. “These examiners then document the medical evidence needed so when the batterer or abuser is prosecuted, the [district attorney] and his team have the evidence and a witness to come forward.”

She added, “It’s a tool that many people in this county can use to break that cycle of violence.”

The SANE designation will greatly enhance collaboration between hospital and Elizabeth Freeman Center staff. When a victim enters the hospital, nursing staff will summon center staffers as part of standard protocol.

Additionally, nurses will be provided with — many already have — more robust training on how to best deal with victims seeking help after these traumatic events.

Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick said her staffers are highly trained but rarely get called to the hospital when victims come in. The new program represents an unprecedented level of collaboration between the hospital and domestic assault/sexual violence workers.

“It’s been shown that if you can have a rape crisis counselor there right at the moment, it makes a big difference,” Broderick said. “We can offer immediate support. Obviously, this is going to increase the number of calls we’re getting, and we’re glad.”

She added, “We’re thrilled. This is a huge step.”

The rate of restraining orders given out in the Berkshires meaningfully exceeds the statewide figure, an indication that relationships here are more likely to become abusive, advocates say. Episodes of abuse can derail victims’ lives, through loss of employment and economic insecurity or subsequent substance abuse.

In 2014, The Freeman Center served 3,034 individual survivors of abuse, people from every corner of the Berkshires, all 32 cities and towns. More than half of these, 1,641, were residents of Pittsfield. The total figure was down slightly from 3,107 in 2013.

“When the lieutenant governor first saw those numbers — those very stunning numbers — from right here, she knew they were making the right decision,” said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, “We have some super-good news here today. There’s another tool in the toolbox. But we have a real issue, and it impacts every single one of us. We have to continue working on this.”

District Attorney David Capeless, who attended Polito’s announcement at the Freeman Center, said he has advocated for such a program for 20 years.

“We need people who are specially trained working with these victims so they can later testify in the courtroom,” Capeless said. “I’m glad this program will be bringing us people prepared to do that.”

Polito said she’d observed a high level of collaboration between Berkshire organizations and was happy to announce news that it would soon increase.

“This room is filled with people who care an awful lot about their neighbors,” Polito said at Thursday’s event. “You come with a tremendous amount of dedication and experience. This collaboration will unite the Berkshires in keeping people safe, making them well and getting them on a path to a successful and good life.”

Berkshire Eagle, Sep. 17: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’: Men raise awareness and funds for Elizabeth Freeman Center

by Phil Demers



PITTSFIELD — Men in the hundreds, young as 13 and old as 91, turned out to once again “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” the fifth consecutive year gents have gotten creative with their footwear on North Street.

In 2014, participation in the event topped 400 and more than $40,000 was raised for Pittsfield’s Elizabeth Freeman Center, which serves thousands of local survivors of domestic abuse every year.

Thursday appeared to be a comparable success as men lined up in wearing everything from sling-backs to ankle straps and flip-flops adorned in flowers.

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn kicked off the mile-long walk, and deserves credit for carrying on a serious conversation while strapping on a painfully narrow-looking pair of red-white-and-blue high heels.

“The [Elizabeth Freeman Center] is, without a doubt, our most valuable non-public safety partner when it comes to battling domestic violence,” Wynn said. “We couldn’t do a lot of what we do in investigation and enforcement if we didn’t have their advocates working with the victims.”

Two Reid Middle School students, Adam Killbary and Michael Lafreniere, both 13, sat nearby putting on pink and purple flats.

“I’m a big boy: six-inch stilettos aren’t going to work,” Killbary said.

“My principal came and asked me if I was going to do it, and I didn’t really think I would until I heard about the cause,” Lafreniere said.

State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, lined up for his walk wearing a pair of lipstick-red heels.

“It’s raising money, it’s raising awareness and giving confidence to people to leave a dangerous home and be protected,” Pignatelli said. “I’m happy to be in pain for an hour for that.”

He added, “The ills of society, the Berkshires are not immune from. I told [Elizabeth Freeman Center Executive Director] Janis Broderick I just love what she’s doing, but I would love to put her out of business. What I mean by that is, we solve this problem of domestic violence.”



One in four women report experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice. Two million injuries and 1,300 deaths occur every year as a result of this violence, the same sources say.

In the Berkshires, the rate of restraining orders given to women seeking freedom from abuse exceeds the state average, but the figure has been descending since “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” started five years ago. The event coincides with the September edition of the city’s popular Third Thursday festival.

“It’s a triple winner: We get to raise money, we get to raise community education and we get to have fun and feel like a community while we’re doing it,” Sue Birns, a member of the Elizabeth Freeman Center Board of Directors, said.

The Freeman Center served 3,107 female survivors of abuse, all Berkshire County residents, in 2013, according to a list which included numbers from each of the county’s 32 cities and towns. The city topped the list with 1,601, but even in small towns like Sheffield and Cheshire, 24 and 30 survivors were served, respectively.

Setting off the walkers, Wynn directed them southbound toward Crowne Plaza.

“South, turn, north, turn, back: It’s really simple,” Wynn said. “As soon as I manage to make my way out to the road, we’re off.”



August/September 2015 Freeman Flash

Our end-of-summer Freeman Flash is here!  Click on the image below for all the news on:

  • our 5th annual Walk a Mile March on September 17th!
    • Including information on how to register, why it’s a great cause, the businesses leading the way in helping us build a world free from violence, a call for artists, and a fantastic fundraising strategy.
  • Berkshire County’s new Batterers Intervention Program
  • the TAFDC September clothing allowance increase and what it means for you
  • and more.

Freeman Flash, August-September 2015 - page 1





July 2015 Freeman Flash

The July Freeman Flash is bursting with news!   Click on the image below to read more about:

  • getting pumped for Walk a Mile on September 17th
  • two position openings at Elizabeth Freeman Center – for a bilingual, bicultural counselor and an LGBQT counselor
  • our new LGBQT Access Project
  • a response to the shootings in Pittsfield over the July 4th weekend
  • a budget report
  • and much more.

Freeman Flash, July 2015 - page 1

May/June 2015 Freeman Flash

Flash XXVI is here!  In this issue, we highlight:

  • what’s happening in the state budget process and why it matters
  • how to sign up for our current volunteer training
  • why this year’s Walk a Mile on September 17th will be the biggest yet
  • job opportunities at Elizabeth Freeman Center
  • our new logo and North Adams office space
  • and much more

Click on the picture below to read all about it.

June Flash - page 1