Women discuss surviving domestic violence at St. Peter’s panel


Several female community leaders gathered at St. Peter’s University on Monday evening to discuss how to avoid and survive instances of domestic violence.


State Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31) explained that we need to teach people to love themselves so that they won’t tolerate being abused by a partner.

Cathy DeFazio McBride, the mother of fallen Jersey City Police Det. Melvin Santiago, spoke in detail about the chaotic relationship she had with her ex-husband.

“In 2010, my husband punched me in the face and was choking me … I knew my jaw was hurt but I was scared to get checked,” recalled McBride.

“This man fractured my jaw and I still felt that I had to protect him.

During the panel discussion, Guarini Institute Executive Director Dr. Leila Sadeghi asked what traits are associated with the captivity aspect of abusive relationships.

WomenRising Director of Domestic Violence Margaret Abrams said victims are typically isolated from family, friends and extracurricular activities by their partner.

Beth Adubato, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Saint Peter’s University, reiterated that point by telling a story of a Seton Hall law student whose boyfriend would not let her leave their apartment unless it was to go to class.

“She told us that for two years, her boyfriend would not let her leave their apartment – except for when she went to class. She had no friends, wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, not allowed to tell her parents,” Adubato said, noting that it does no good to blame the victim since everyone’s circumstances are different.

Additionally, Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Executive Director Pamela Johnson (also a Ward A council candidate) recalled a brutal beating she received at the hands of her daughter’s father.

“One night, where I came in, it was that jealousy thing. Someone saw me at the hair salon talking to a gentleman. And he wanted to know who he was. And before I could answer, my head was through a china closet,” stated Johnson.

“And after that, he stabbed me, repeatedly. And even though I walked out, I dragged myself out, but I got out, but the signs are not always a hit or a slap. Sometimes it’s the control. Sometimes it’s the ‘baby I love you because you’re so beautiful.'”

Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Najma Rana, Sarah’s Daughters Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation Founder Rev. Bertha Reels and Sarah Davis, a corrections officer at the Edna Mahon Correctional Facility for Women also joined the panel.

The event was a joint effort between the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and October is domestic violence awareness month.

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  1. Did the prosecutors office say anything? This gives an impression that the discussion was telling women to love themselves which doesn’t help us understand all of the violent deaths of women this year. This is either a problem in the reporting or in the event, which was it?

    • Esther Suarez was supposed to be the first speaker, and I did see her there, but I did not catch her remarks because I was covering another event prior and could not get there for the very beginning.