October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. No matter the socioeconomic background or education level, domestic violence can occur to partners who are married, dating, or living together.
In 2020 there were 63,058 domestic violence offenses reported to police in New Jersey compared to 59,645 offenses reported in 2019. Children were present in 14,930 of the domestic violence reported. When the pandemic hit, putting the U.S on lockdown, domestic violence-related incidents increased by 8.1 percent, per data from 12 research studies reviewed by sociologists at the University of Miami.
Sandra Ramos: Pioneering Activist Working to Break the Cycle of Domestic Violence
New Jersey has come a long way when it comes to protecting women and children when they need it the most. Today we would like to highlight a woman who contributed to this journey. Sandra Ramos is a fearless activist, advocate and protector of women and children who was the top winner of the 2001 Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award.
“I’ve been involved in the Women’s Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Peace Movement, and Environmental Movement. I’ve been fighting my whole life!”
Sandra Ramos: From ‘Shelter our Sisters’ to ‘Strengthen our Sisters’
In 1970, Sandra began her fight against domestic violence by opening a safe house called Save Our Sisters located in her home, which is considered the first shelter for battered women in North America. At the time the organization had no funds, but when funds became available they transitioned into Shelter Our Sisters. The organization has evolved over the years and is now known Strengthen Our Sisters, a shelter with support services for women and their dependent children who’ve experienced domestic violence and need a safe place to live. When Sandra won the $50,000 award at the 2001 Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award for her pioneering work, the funds went towards opening a new residence called the Berrie House.
In 1987 Sandra attempted to retire, moving to Ringwood, NJ, but her help was still needed. Her reputation for assisting battered women was heard through the grapevine and women in the area leaned on her for support. Sandra explained how these women were able to connect with her, “I previously helped their sisters and cousins. People called and reached out for help as well.”
Sandra has a strong belief in “fairness and justice” and wants to see the cycle of domestic violence broken forever. Repetition of domestic violence is common, as boys who witness their mothers being abused are 10 times more likely to abuse their partner, and girls raised in a household with a father abusing their mother are six times more likely to be sexually abused. Watch Steve Adubato talk with Sandra Ramos about Strengthen our Sisters
Break the Cycle of Domestic Violence
Sandra and her team work to break the cycle of domestic violence by encouraging victims to know they are not at fault and keeping their mission to restore balance and harmony in mind. Their goal is to enable women and their children to transition from a life of homelessness, domestic violence and poverty to one of stability and self-sufficiency. Sandra hopes we can one day live in a world free from poverty, violence, and grief. A world where people work until what needs to be done is accomplished and incorporates a powerful sisterhood.
The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award is grateful for Sandra’s courage and commitment which has saved lives and created brighter futures for thousands of women and children. We are proud that she is a member of our Honoree Community.
By Alexis Jones
Ramapo College, ‘23 Student Assistant for Communications & Outreach, Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award