CONNECT to end abuse
At Martha's Vineyard Community Services, the support center for people who've been subjected to domestic or sexual abuse is now called CONNECT to end violence. Formerly known as Woman's Support Services, CONNECT provides individual and group services, legal and medical advocacy, and around-the-clock crisis response to both women and men.
"Abuse is a huge issue," says Kealee Rainaud, the Child Witness to Violence advocate for CONNECT. "It is an issue everywhere, and CONNECT puts together a ton of resources to fight it. We have the rape crisis hotline, an abuse hotline. We have court advocacy assisting people with restraining orders and child probate issues. We have medical advocacy for people who need to go to the hospital to do a rape kit, or after domestic abuse. We have such important services; we really needed a name people could remember. It also has worked better in the high school, which is a large aspect of the group's focus right now."
Photo by Ralph Stewart
The organization has recently been working in the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) to raise awareness about abuse in the adolescent population. The move into the high school began in 2007, when CONNECT decided to focus on prevention, rather than solely on intervention.
Ms. Rainaud thinks the focus of the center has changed for the better. "I know that since we have changed, we have made a large piece of what we do prevention and community work, not just waiting for abuse to be reported, but trying to make people aware before it does," she says. "It is about getting our name out there. We did our first walk last summer, through Edgartown, because we want to be more visible. We want to change the way people handle this issue, and get it out it the open and not be private, as it stereotypically is."
In 2007, Carrie B. Giacomini-White became CONNECT's director. With more than 12 years of experience in community and social service, certification as a guidance counselor, and a master's degree in clinical psychology, she began expanding the program. The need to make the organization more recognizable was what prompted her to change the name from Woman's Support Services to CONNECT.
"We wanted to make the name more general," says Ms. Giacomini-White. "Of course the majority of the work we do is with women, but we wanted to make it obvious we are available to work with anyone affected by violence, including children and men. We wanted to make it a community issue, and we are not just focused on domestic violence, but verbal, financial, sexual. We want to make it something people talk about. Ideally, we want to help people connect."