Agency Highlights Domestic Abuse Symptoms, Promotes Awareness, Offers Help

It’s a nice, quiet and picturesque place to call home: Jefferson Township. Some might call it a sleepy haven tucked among verdant forests and bountiful lakes. So, when the sound of gun shots and pleas for help by a screaming woman pierced a still July summer evening last year, the community was shocked to its very core.

It was the night of July 14, 2019 that Christine Solaro was allegedly shot and killed by her estranged husband, John Formisano, leaving behind two school-aged children.

While the alleged murder shook community residents to the core, intimate partner violence (IPV), unfortunately, is not rare. In fact, it may tragically be the norm, with an average of 20 people experiencing IVP every minute in the United States. That amounts to 10 million American women, children, and men suffering such hostility every year, according to JBWS, (formerly known as Jersey Battered Women’s Services),  a private, nonprofit agency.

Perhaps shockingly, 19 percent of intimate partner violence involve a weapon. In fact, an abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of intimate partner femicide by 400 percent.

Building Awareness

These statistics were presented earlier this month during a program – “Awareness and Prevention of Domestic Violence,” – sponsored by Jefferson Township Connect (JT Connect) and featuring presenters from JBWS, which provides safety, support, and solutions for victims of abuse.

Robin Hughes, JBWS crisis response team manager, and Regina Braham, the agency’s vice president of community relations, discussed domestic abuse symptoms that lead to violence, noting that many people exist in abusive situations and think the behaviors are “normal.” The situations are anything but normal, however, and the symptoms have no place in a loving relationship, they stressed.

JBWS managers Robin Hughes and Regina Braham respond to questions from residents attending JT Connect’s “Awareness and Prevention of Domestic Violence” program earlier this month. (Photo by Maria Weiskott)

Symptoms of domestic abuse include:

  • Isolation: The abuser controls what partners do, who they see and talk to, and where they go.
  • Intimidation: Putting partners in fear by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voice, smashing things, destroying their property.
  • Threats: Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt partners emotionally, threaten to take children, commit suicide.
  • Using Children: Making partners feel guilty about the children, using the children to convey messages, using visitation as a method of harassment.
  • Sexual Abuse: Making partners do things against their will, physically attacking sexual parts of their bodies, treating them as sex objects.
  • Economic Abuse: Trying to keep partners from getting or keeping a job, making them ask for money, taking their money and giving them an allowance.
  • Emotional Abuse: Putting down partners or making them feel bad about themselves, calling them names, making them think they are crazy or stupid and playing ‘mind games’ with them.

Both Branham and Hughes noted that domestic abuse has serious impact on children, who are involved in more that 25,000 incidences of domestic violence annually in New Jersey alone. “They risk physical injuries, emotional problems and developmental issues,” they said, adding that sadly, “Children often blame themselves for the violence at home,” feeling confused about their mixed emotions of anger, sadness, fear, and love for their parents.

Offering Solutions

Hughes and Braham suggested ways friends and family members can help those who are abused by recognizing the symptoms, and in safe moments gently suggest they are aware. They can offer sympathetic listening and surreptitiously provide safe-haven information.

In fact, JBWS provides extensive training for those willing to become crisis team volunteers. Through training and supervision, a volunteer will learn various tools and available resources to assist victims of domestic abuse. Jefferson Township – which ranks third in Morris County in reported domestic abuse cases, according to the agency – only has one trained crisis volunteer. More volunteers are needed, Hughes and Braham acknowledged and urged those interested to make contact through the agency’s website: or by calling 973-267-7520.

JBWS was conceived in 1976 as the Jersey Battered Women’s Service. The service is now known simply by the abbreviation JBWS, which signifies Safety, Support & Solutions for Abuse. Among JBWS services are a safe house, transitional living, legal advocacy services and a crisis response team. Hughes and

Branham noted that agency speakers welcome opportunities to present informational programs to all community groups including parent organizations, scout troops and civic groups.

The event’s sponsor, JT Connect, is a township organization committed to “engaging the community to raise mental health awareness,” as stated on the group’s Facebook page. Throughout the year, the organization offers a wide range of programs in support of Jefferson’s Stigma-Free status.

On Thursday, January 16, JT Connect is joining other local organizations to sponsor “Pasta and a Program,” to address the growing addiction to ‘vaping’ by school-aged children. The featured speaker is Rebecca Tritt, a licensed and veteran professional therapist at Daytop Village, a renowned rehabilitation center. She will discuss vaping in general, why it is harmful, and suggest ways to protect children from the habit. The event will be held at the Jefferson Township High School cafeteria, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Attendees should register to attend at

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at