BROOKFIELD – Shortly after she began teaching at Riverside Brookfield High School, Jan Goldberg discussed with her students how various forms of bullying are related to domestic violence.
But the subject matter concerned officials at the school, and they asked her to stop bringing it up in class. She responded by citing statistics demonstrating the relevance of domestic violence.
“I was told not to [teach about domestic violence] at the very beginning of my career because it was a ‘women’s issue,’” Goldberg said. “And when I told the powers that be that 80 percent of the inmates at Cook County Jail have witnessed domestic abuse – either on themselves as kids or between their parents – that’s not a women’s issue. It’s a societal issue.”
While laws have offered more protections for victims of domestic violence, the culture has yet to catch up, Goldberg said. Now retired from teaching, she said the patterns of harassment that young people exhibited years ago still exist.
“In the teen life, not that much has changed,” Goldberg said. “Now it’s more electronic bullying, but it used to be notes. I would collect notes from people. The gossip and the cliquishness, the bullying, it’s still there.”
Goldberg was one of several representatives of Walk with Therese, a nonprofit group that raises awareness of domestic violence, to offer a presentation on the issue at the Brookfield Public Library on June 6. Vice president of the group’s board, Goldberg was joined by Samantha Satterthwaite, founder and president of the organization; Rowena Demadara, treasurer of the group’s board; and volunteers Dianna Sciaraffa and Mary Stroka.
Satterthwaite began Walk with Therese two years after her aunt, Therese Acheson Pender, was killed in March 2005 in River Forest. Her estranged husband, James Pender, pleaded guilty in 2009 to bludgeoning her to death with a hammer.
Walk with Therese to Stop Domestic Violence is an annual walk aimed at raising funds for domestic abuse prevention programs and to inform victims of support services available. This year’s event will be Aug. 24 at Keystone Park in River Forest.
Last year, Satterthwaite started a nonprofit organization so she could do even more to help victims. Last week’s presentation was part of the education campaign the group undertakes; a previous session was at Riverside Presbyterian Church. Walk with Therese has partnered with Family Shelter Service.
“One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. And 1.3 million are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year,” Satterthwaite said during the June 6 presentation. “Unfortunately, my aunt was one in every four women. Aunt Therese is my inspiration and my drive.”
Stroka cited statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Of all the sexual assaults that take place in the United States each year, about 3 percent of rapists spend time in prison for their crimes, she said.
Goldberg said that it wasn’t until the 1980s that domestic violence was criminalized in this country. Illinois passed it’s Domestic Violence Act in 1986, and the Violence Against Women Act originally was passed in 1994 and reauthorized by Congress earlier this year, she said. These two laws provide necessary protection and support for victims of domestic violence, Goldberg said.
Walk with Therese to Stop Domestic Violence has raised more than $6,000 for local domestic abuse agencies since it began, Satterthwaite said.
“Walk with Therese’s mission is to educate the local Chicagoland community on prevention and awareness of domestic violence. We plan on educating wherever we are needed,” Satterthwaite said. “This year, we came up with our motto officially: Ending domestic violence through roots of knowledge and empowerment.”
Therese.org for information about the group’s work and the upcoming walk.