Letter to the Editor from CEO Phyllis Yonta
July 21, 2021
The horrific murder of Highland Park-native Yasemin Uyar, following years of repeated and escalating domestic violence, shook Middlesex County. In spite of Yasemin’s courageous efforts to create a safer life for herself and her young son, Sebastian, her life was stolen. Family and friends will keep Yasemin’s memory alive for Sebastian. Women Aware and like-minded partners will ensure that Yasemin’s voice and survivors’ voices continue to be heard.
The fact that an abuser strangled Yasemin in the past made it 10 times more likely that the abuser would kill her. The word “choked” falls far short of describing what strangulation actually is, a terrifying assault that can kill a victim in a matter of seconds. The lethality associated with strangulation is so high that New Jersey recently enacted legislation (S2503) elevating strangulation assault to a second-degree crime punishable by 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000 or both.
As the lead, state-designated domestic violence agency in Middlesex County, Women Aware has been committed to moving survivors and their families beyond abuse for more than 40 years. All our services are free and confidential. Services include a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, legal advocacy, support groups, children’s trauma reduction therapy, counseling and permanent supportive housing. Our 24/7 hotline – 833-249-4504 – is staffed by trauma-informed advocates who provide crisis counseling as well as resource and referral information. Calls may be anonymous and are kept confidential.
Continued collaboration with our allies in law enforcement; legal services; judiciary; human services; homeless services; immigration services; and government is critical as we work together to break down the barriers that stand between victims/survivors and the services they need. It takes a community to save lives.
Phyllis Yonta, MSW, MA, DVS