Fattman looks to raise awareness about domestic violence
BOSTON – When state Rep. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, was a residence housing director at Tufts University, he was approached by a young woman who said she had been raped by her boyfriend.
Hearing the troubling story stuck with Fattman, who now wants to help prevent other cases of rape and domestic violence.
“That impacted me very greatly,” Fattman said. “It made me very angry to hear the details of what happened. Ever since, I have been involved in domestic violence awareness, supporting victims through charity walks for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.”
Fattman, a freshman legislator whose district includes Bellingham, is using his new office to promote awareness of the issue, hosting a domestic violence awareness event Wednesday at the State House to support funding for victims of rape and post-trauma therapy.
“As a legislator, I am trying to do my part to make sure we address this issue seriously and with empathy,” Fattman said. “As someone who has seen the ugly face of violence and abuse, I held this forum to bring light to a serious issue that can be very difficult to discuss.”
Fattman addressed legislators, aides and members of the New Hope Foundation, a non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence.
“Typically, we think this sort of thing happens with a stranger or someone walking down a dark alley, when in most cases it is someone we know or are familiar with,” Fattman said. “The statistics show that a majority of incidents are happening amongst friends, intimate partners and spouses. People don’t understand that.”
Last summer, Fattman met with New Hope to set up the awareness event. They agreed that February would be the time to schedule events, to coordinate with National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month.
“New Hope is a wonderful organization, and it’s truly an honor to be working with them to help bring an end to domestic violence,” Fattman said.
The forum attracted more than 50 legislators and aides, according to Kim Thomas, the president and executive director of New Hope. Thomas said building awareness with legislators will go a long way toward helping victims.
“We want the legislators to refer their constituents to us, and also to rape crisis centers and domestic violence agencies across the state,” Thomas said. “The demand has increased for these services. It’s really important to remind legislators to refer folks to us and other agencies.”
Thomas said having a rape victim speak to the legislators was important to humanize the issue. She said she hoped the legislators will remember the victim’s face when they evaluate funding for domestic violence prevention.
“We want them to think about what the survivor said about her past when they’re going over line items in the budget,” Thomas said. “It was really important to give the legislators that education and awareness for when they vote. We hope they don’t think about cutting our funds.”
New Hope, an affiliate of the United Way of Attleboro/Taunton, receives funding from government contracts, the United Way, and business, civic, church group and individual donations.
State Rep. Kevin Kuros, R-Uxbridge, who attended the State House event, praised Fattman’s dedication to helping victims of domestic violence.
Fattman also said it’s important to bring domestic violence awareness to the Legislature to discuss the domestic violence laws and look at the punishments.
“Certain penalties for domestic violence are five years in jail, and then trashing and beating up a car can be 10 years in jail,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense, and we need to start talking more with each other about domestic violence to have some changes.”