The forum included an appearance by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Second Barnstable State Representative Will Crocker (R-Centerville).
Polito recalled her first visit to Independence House four years ago when she met a woman who had broken the chain of domestic violence thanks to the Hyannis-based agency.
“The work that you do is critical. You are part of the safety net of the Cape and Islands,” she said about the agency, which provides counseling and shelter for domestic assault victims.
“We (the state) need your help because there is more work to do and we need to do it together,” she said.
Polito said the state will be launching a public awareness campaign early next year about sexual abuse awareness, something that hasn’t been done since the 1990s.
She called domestic abuse and assault both a public health, and public safety issue.
Polito also stressed the need for strong communication channels for victims and peer to peer communication.
“I heard a lot of great information about things that can work to better communicate and reach the vulnerable populations that we endeavor to better serve,” Polito said. “And we’ll continue the conversation with this group as we complete the plan for the public awareness campaign.”
Independence House Executive Director Lysetta Hurge-Putnam said her daughter has told her that she would likely speak with a friend about sexual abuse before an adult.
Hurge-Putnam said technology can be part of the solution in combating domestic violence.
Participants talked about the pros and cons of how smart phones and other devices can be used by those in need.
Despite the Cape’s older population, many said seniors are savvy enough to use technology.
One suggestion included training for teachers who can recognize the early signs of domestic abuse when it comes to young people.
That would include training kids and 7 and 8th grade. But it was also suggested that there be intergenerational interaction with addressing the issue.
Crocker said there is a direct connection between the opioid crisis and domestic violence.
“We need to break the connection between opioid abuse and sexual abuse,” he said.
Polito thanked all the groups who have been working on the domestic violence issue.
Some of those on hand included the Cape Cod Neighborhood Support Coalition, Cape Cod Council of Churches, Cape and Islands Workforce Development Board and Yarmouth Senior Services.
Kelly Dwyer, the executive director of the Governor’s Council of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence also took part in the discussion.