Western New Jersey

Domestic abuse group wants to 'change the conversation' in Warren County

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - In the last six months, two domestic violence homicides have hit Warren County.

A reporter asked Jill Zinckgraf if the victim would have survived had she left her husband sooner.

Zinckgraf, executive director of the county's Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Crisis Center, responded with: "You'd have to ask the man who killed her."

Zinckgraf told that story Tuesday night to Phillipsburg's Town Council as part of an effort to raise awareness -- especially among younger people -- about how we think of domestic and sexual violence.

"What we'd like to do is start changing the conversation," she said.

Part of that involves getting people to think differently about the images they see in the media.

Zinckgraf used the caveman example. She asked the audience to close its eyes and picture a typical caveman.

The response she got: a burly guy, who has just clubbed a woman over the head and is dragging her to his cave by the hair.

Then she asked them to dig deeper: Wouldn't that woman be hurt?

How conscious could she really be? And if she's not conscious, how could she consent?

"We also talk about fantasy vs. reality," said Brenda Seals, the center's media literacy coordinator, holding up a blown up cover of a fitness magazine.

They'd gotten a group of young people to examine it and write their thoughts on how the magazine's messages about things like weight loss make them feel.

At the bottom of all this are numbers.

Zinckgraf said sexual violence will affect one in three women.

And while awareness may be on the rise, the number of women she deals with hasn't gone down since she began this line of work 35 years ago.

The center, based in Washington, N.J., offers assistance to anyone who identifies as a victim of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

You can visit the Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Crisis Center website or call the hotline at 866-6BE-SAFE.

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