ELIZABETH, NJ - Hidden Victims of domestic violence is the central topic of the fourth annual Union County C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Action, Response, Education, and Safety) Domestic Violence Symposium to take place next Thursday, April 6, at Kean University’s STEM Center in Union Township, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park and YWCA Union County Executive Director Janice C. Lilien jointly announced March 31.

The Symposium’s keynote address, titled “Making Domestic Violence Visible: Reflections from the Son of a Murdered Victim,” will be delivered by Shavar Jeffries, a partner with the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, LLP.  In addition, approximately two dozen speakers will focus on the topic. Thereafter, the Symposium will feature four panels looking at individual populations for which there are unique barriers to care and issues related to reporting of incidents of domestic violence: the LGBTQ community, immigrants, the disabled and older adults, and male victims. A total of 15 panelists from fields ranging from law enforcement to medicine to social services and more will discuss topics raised by moderators, then respond to questions from the audience.

“While awareness of domestic violence may be increasing, there are still far too many people who are unwilling to come forward, or who do not recognize the reality of domestic violence – either for themselves or for a loved one,” Lilien said. “This year we are focusing on some of the population groups that face unique barriers to requesting and receiving service, in the hopes that our Symposium continues to increase the knowledge base within our communities and strengthen our safety net.”

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The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1.3 million women become victims of physical violence by an intimate partner annually in the U.S., and in recent years, Union County municipal police departments have handled several thousand domestic violence calls per year – an average of more than 10 every day. In order to help address this issue, during recent years the Prosecutor’s Office has revamped and expanded the role of its Domestic Violence Unit, which today remains centrally involved in planning the upcoming launch of the Union County Family Justice Center in the currently-under-construction Family Courthouse in Elizabeth.

“This Symposium, now in its fourth year, is emblematic of our office’s continued commitment to addressing and raising awareness about domestic violence in all its forms,” acting Prosecutor Park said. “It is through these conversations that we as a community and law enforcement learn how to best address domestic violence. This is especially relevant as we head into the opening of the Union County Family Justice Center – a facility that will streamline the resources of law enforcement and social services and enable us to handle cases of domestic violence holistically under one roof.”

Symposium is being sponsored by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, YWCA Union County, Kean University, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Elizabeth-based Family and Children’s Services, Iris House, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, and the Elizabethtown Healthcare Foundation.

The Symposium has been scheduled to coincide with the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crimes Victims’ Rights Week, held this year from April 2 to 8 (for more information, go online to https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw). For more information or to register to attend the Symposium, go online to UnionCountyCARES.eventbrite.com.