Vigil held in observance of domestic violence

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 4, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

A woman in the United States is beaten every nine seconds.

Domestic violence is leading cause of injuries inflicted upon women between the ages of 15 and 45.

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Those staggering figures were cited by Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Philips Ferguson during Thursday night’s vigil recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. An annual event, the vigil was meant to help boost public awareness to the seriousness of this life-altering crime.

About four dozen people braved the evening’s brisker-than-usual temperatures to attend the ceremony at the park adjacent to the Mills E. Godwin Courthouse. Other speakers included Major Richard Hurd, Suffolk Police Department; Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Wiser; Nora Butler, emergency services supervisor of Western Tidewater Community Services Board; and Val Livingston, executive director of the Genieve Shelter.

Seeking justice for domestic violence victims and their families is a paramount concern for his office, Ferguson said.

&uot;In observance of the month, we have a display in the courts building lobby so that the public can learn more about this devastating crime and its impact on families and society,&uot; he said. &uot;It also helps people learn about services in the community.&uot;

Ferguson’s office, the Genieve Shelter and the Suffolk Police Department are teaming up to locally to participate in the wireless phone program sponsored by the Wireless Foundation, Motorola and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The local agencies are sponsoring a drive to collect used wireless cell phones to benefit victims of domestic violence, Ferguson added. The recycled phones are programmed with minutes and turned back over to shelters, who distribute them to domestic violence victims to use in case of emergencies.

Donations of phones are tax-deductible and proceeds from their sale help to fund agencies that fight domestic violence.

&uot;In the hands of a victim, these phones are a lifeline enabling them to call for assistance when faced with an emergency situation,&uot; Ferguson said. &uot;Let us bring this problem out from behind closed doors and into the light.

&uot;By taking strong public action against this crime, we are creating a society that promotes strong values, fosters a safe and loving home environment for every family, and refuses to tolerate domestic violence in any form. To know and do nothing is as bad as the act of domestic violence or child abuse itself.

&uot;Know the signs, you may save a life.&uot;

Wiser, who prosecutes domestic violence cases, said it is important to catch domestic violence in its initial stages, as it inevitably blossoms into something more dangerous. Also, he said, it is vital to keep children from being exposed to domestic violence.

Livingston told people attending that their job was to make the community aware of the problem and that those in attendance were now aware of it. Now that they are aware of it, they have the power to do something about it. She told them that it is not just a community problem but their problem. She then told the role that the Genieve Shelter plays in domestic violence.