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It Takes a Village

Partnering to Keep Survivors Safe

Sansone Auto donated 21 child and infant car seats to keep the smallest survivors of domestic violence safe on the road. In addition to giving car seats directly to families in need, Women Aware also distributed car seats to six police departments in Middlesex County. Without Sansone’s donation, these departments would not have the means to securely transport infants and children from the scene of a domestic violence incident to safety. Thank you to Sansone Auto and our partners in law enforcement for working with Women Aware to help keep survivors safe.

Training Educates and Empowers Volunteers to Better Serve Survivors

30 Individuals Complete 40-Hour Domestic Violence Training

It was a busy and insightful four weeks for participants in Women Aware’s 40-hour Domestic Violence Training. Most of the 30 participants were individuals interested in volunteering on Women Aware’s Domestic Violence Response Teams (DVRTs), while several Middlesex County Family Justice Center partners and Women Aware staff members took the training for professional development. The virtual training concluded with an in-person session at the Middlesex County Police Training Center.

DVRT volunteers will continue training under the direction of Women Aware’s DVRT Administrator within the Legal Advocacy department. Ultimately, volunteer advocates will be on call for affiliated police departments in Dunellen, East Brunswick, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Middlesex, Monroe, Plainsboro, South Brunswick, South River and Spotswood to listen, provide support, and share resources with victims of domestic violence following an incident of abuse.

Presenters included: Women Aware Client Services professionals; the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, MCPO Sexual Assault Response Team/Forensic Nurse Examiner Program, Rutgers School of Social Work, and Central Jersey Legal Services. Presenters covered such topics as Values & Ethics, Overview of Domestic Violence, Confidentiality, Effects of Domestic Violence on Children, Police Response to Domestic Violence, Court Procedures, Domestic Violence and Mental Health, Immigration, Strangulation, Cultural Awareness, Safety Planning, and Intervention Skills.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 24-30, 2022

NJ National Crime Victims' Rights Week Virtual Event - Rights, Access, Equity for All Victims

Middlesex County Family Justice Center Director Mildred Torres joined representatives of the NJ Victims of Crime Compensation Office, Victims Services Unit of the New Jersey State Police, and Department of Surgery at Jersey City Medical Center during a panel presentation to victim-survivors at a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week virtual event. Ms. Torres emphasized that Women Aware’s services are:

  • Always free and confidential;
  • Language is never a barrier to services thanks to bilingual advocates and the language line; and
  • Women Aware serves all individuals experiencing domestic violence, including those who are undocumented.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 24-30, 2022

Middlesex County Family Justice Center Director Mildred Torres Presents at NCVRW Virtual Event

Middlesex County Family Justice Center Director Mildred Torres is a panelist at the Friday, April 29, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., National Crime Victims’ Rights Week virtual event sponsored by the NJ Office of the Attorney General, NJ Division of Criminal Justice, State Office of Victim Witness Advocacy and Victims of Crime Compensation Office. Register here: https://www.njoag.gov/national-crime-victims-week-2022/

The theme of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 24-30, 2022, is Rights, Access, Equity, for All Victims. Through this event, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) hopes to raise awareness of victims’ rights, protections and services. For more information, visit: https://ovc.ojp.gov/program/national-crime-victims-rights-week/overview

Women Aware Celebrates Leadership Anniversary

Board of Directors and Staff Congratulate CEO Phyllis Yonta

March 1, 2022

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Women Aware, it is my pleasure to congratulate Chief Executive Officer Phyllis Yonta on her 15-year leadership anniversary!

I began serving on the board shortly after Phyllis’s hire. From the beginning, it was clear Phyllis had strong and effective management skills. The “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work” slogan, hung outside Phyllis’s office, is her motto. The Women Aware staff works as a team, putting the clients first above all else, and I’m sure her excellent supervisors appreciate that micromanaging is not Phyllis’s style.

Serving as the Women Aware board president continues to be a privilege. Working alongside Phyllis, listening to her advice and impressive knowledge, has taken the stress away from my position and fostered a productive relationship between the Board and management.

Phyllis has proven her dedication to the rights of victims of domestic violence. She leads the agency by way of years of experience and compassion for Women Aware’s clients. It is an honor to know Phyllis in any capacity.

Diane Palmer, Board President

Pictured above are Board President Diane Palmer, CEO Phyllis Yonta, Board Treasurer Matthew Flannery, and Board Vice President Jessica Oppenheim.

In the News

TAPinto New Brunswick Spotlights Middlesex County Family Justice Center

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The walls have been painted sky blue, a gizmo with purple backlighting that shoots soothing streams of bubbles is hanging near the front door and the place still has that new-carpeting smell.

From the stones etched with inspirational messages subtly positioned on desks to the overgrown plush octopus in the playroom, every inch of the new Middlesex County Family Justice Center is meant to convey to domestic abuse survivors and their children that this is a space of support and sanctuary.

“And hope – that word is huge,” said Mildred Torres, the center’s director. “It can be found. It can be inspired. You can teach hope and inspire a person who has gone through the worst of the worst. I love that word. So, yes, we want them to feel hopeful. There’s a better future ahead.”

To read the full article, click here.

Pictured are Family Justice Center Director Mildred Torres and Women Aware Development Director Susan Dyckman in the children’s room at the FJC.

Happy New Year

“Going into this New Year, Women Aware is blessed. We are inspired by the courageous survivors we serve. We are empowered by dedicated partners, funders, donors, supporters and Board members. Working together, we will build a society where individuals can live free from violence and injustice. Thank you for your support.”

Phyllis Yonta, MSW, MA, DVS

Chief Executive Officer

Serving Survivors Without Interruption What donors and funders made possible in 2021

  • Women Aware served more survivors in a single year than in any one year since our founding 41 years ago.
  • Hotline calls increased 12%, averaging over 600 calls a month.
  • Advocates provided counseling in 19 different languages.
  • Shelter capacity increased to 125% through our hotel placement program, and over 200 women and children were served.
  • Our legal advocacy team served 37% more clients.
  • We hired a full-time Legal Advocate specializing in immigration matters.
  • Our housing navigation program served more than 228 families and helped adult clients receive rent and relocation assistance totaling over $300 thousand dollars.
  • In December, we received over $20 thousand dollars in gift cards to bring smiles and hope to those most in need, thanks to the generosity of our community.

Thank YOU for saving lives

Board President Diane Palmer Receives New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award

Congratulations and thank you, Diane!

Congratulations to Women Aware Board President Diane Palmer for being recognized as a 2021 New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award recipient.

Diane Palmer has volunteered for Women Aware, the state-designated domestic violence agency for Middlesex County, for nearly 30 years. She began her service as a children’s program volunteer and holds a special place in her heart for the families served in Women Aware’s emergency shelter. Diane gradually moved into a leadership role, joining the Board of Directors in 2006. She served as Board Secretary and Vice President before being named Board President in 2014. Diane maintains a close connection to the shelter, generously supporting the Annual Gift Shop and annual gingerbread house construction activity for mothers and children.

Diane’s volunteer service to individuals and families affected by domestic violence is heartfelt and hands-on whenever possible. She serves quietly, with a smile. There is no task too big or too small for Diane to accept if it means making things easier, better, brighter or more comfortable for Women Aware’s clients. Because her commitment to service extends into the Middlesex County community, Diane is an effective advocate for Women Aware’s services. She serves as a bridge between Women Aware and the people and organizations across Middlesex County who have the capacity, and demonstrate the commitment, to promote the safety and self-sufficiency of victims moving beyond abuse. Her personal outreach has resulted in monetary and in-kind donations to programs such as the Annual Gift Shop and events such as the 40th Anniversary Virtual Candlelight Vigil. She is actively involved in Women Aware’s donor stewardship and community outreach. Diane’s leadership as President of the Board of Directors has supported the expansion of Women Aware’s 24-hour hotline, shelter, legal advocacy, children’s trauma reduction therapy and support group services to include Permanent Supportive Housing, a Housing Navigation Program and the foundation for a Family Justice Center for Middlesex County. Women Aware today shelters 200 women and children annually and serves an additional 2,000 victims of abuse. Most recently, Diane led the Board’s affirmation of and support for Women Aware’s executive leadership and staff as they met the extraordinary challenge of providing domestic violence services through a pandemic.

Pictured: Board President Diane Palmer (l) and Development Director Susan Dyckman.