Each day that Barbara Sheehan, the Howard Beach woman charged with shooting her husband 11 times, headed to her trial over the past month, a group of individuals clad in purple — the color representing domestic violence awareness — trailed behind her, consistently cramming onto the hard wooden benches in a Kew Gardens courtroom to provide silent support for the defendant.
These people are not family, nor friends — though there are plenty of those in the courtroom as well.
Many of them haven’t even met Barbara Sheehan.
But they know her story.
These people are advocates working to curb the plague of domestic violence that will affect about one in four women nationally, including thousands in Queens.
They are attorneys from California, social workers from Manhattan and doctoral students from Brooklyn.
And they all agree on one thing —for women who find themselves in a situation like Barbara Sheehan says she did, trapped in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship for nearly two decades, there is help.
You are not alone.
If anything good is to come from this trial, it is the hope that women who are being abused will seek help before finding themselves at the point where Sheehan said she ended up — firing 11 shots at her husband, Raymond Sheehan, in the bathroom of their Howard Beach home after, she said, she came to believe he was going to kill her.
If you, or someone you know, is being abused, there are numerous organizations there to help, whether it’s with immediate emergency housing for the victim and her children, crafting a plan for leaving a spouse or providing legal consultation or representation.
These services are available throughout the city, including many locations in Queens.
The New York Justice Center in Queens, part of the mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, provides legal representation, support groups, access to housing and language interpretation. The group’s office is in the same building as the criminal courthouse in Kew Gardens, located at 126-02 82 Ave. The number is (718) 575-4500.
Victims may call a toll-free hotline run by Safe Horizon, which has sites throughout the city, including at 126-02 82 Ave. in Queens. The hotline advocates provide crisis counseling, safety planning and assistance with finding a shelter. The domestic violence hotline is 1 (800) 621-4673.
Queens Legal Services, which has offices at 89-00 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica and 42-15 Crescent St. in Long Island City, provides free legal counseling, representation and referrals. Residents may reach the group 24 hours a day by dialing (347) 592-2179.
It seems appropriate this trial is wrapping up in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. No matter what the verdict, or if you do or don’t believe Sheehan’s story, it is crucial to recognize the severity of domestic violence in our communities and to take a stand against it.
That’s why there are many events happening during this month to raise awareness about domestic violence, including a walk at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Let us not forget there are many women suffering daily behind closed doors, wondering if they will live to see another day.
It’s time to fling those doors open.