Events put focus on domestic violence issue

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Southampton Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Woman Program has made it its mission to get the word out that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To that end, the program teamed up with the GFWC Franklin Junior Woman’s Club to host two events meant to bring domestic violence awareness to the forefront of the community.

These events were planned months before the news came on Sept. 12 that former Courtland resident and Southampton Academy graduate Amy Partner Yager was killed during a domestic violence incident. Event coordinators dedicated both recent events in Yager’s memory, with permission from her parents.

“One of our organization’s primary focuses as it relates to the community is that of health education,” said David Fuller, CEO of Southampton Memorial Hospital. “The Healthy Woman program is a community resource that enables us to carry out this initiative. I am very pleased that we were able to bring this information about domestic violence to our area women.”

More than 300 women attended the Healthy Women Domestic Violence Awareness Program on Thursday at the Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center. Keynote speaker Janine Latus shared her personal story of emotional, sexual and physical abuse.

Latus, author of the NYT bestseller “If I Am Missing Or Dead,” told a captive audience how she suffered this abuse quietly. She never let her own family know what was happening, while all along her younger sister Amy Latus was being victimized as well. Amy didn’t live to tell her story, so Janine tells it for her and for all of the victims of domestic violence without a voice.

According to recent statistics, one of every four women is abused by a spouse or partner. Latus encouraged those women that are in abusive situations to tell someone and to seek help. She asked those who know someone in an abusive relationship speak up and offer assistance, encouragement and strength.

Staying silent can have a deadly price. Latus wrote her book for that reason — to be a “call to break the cycle of abuse,” to give a voice to domestic violence and to bring about a mindset in communities that violence in any form is not acceptable.

Val Livingston, director of the Genieve Shelter, told attendees about the 20-year history of the local shelter that serves Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County and Suffolk. She pointed out that domestic violence cuts across the boundaries of race and socio-economic status and gave an overview of how the local shelter helps victims.

About 120 community members came together on Saturday to participate in the “Healthy Women Stomp Out Domestic Violence” Awareness Walk. The family of Amy Partner Yager led the 1.2-mile walk while carrying a banner signed by attendees. A crowd of men, women and children wearing purple T-shirts, the color for domestic violence awareness, followed them.

The walk began following a ceremony honoring the victims and survivors of domestic violence. Walk coordinators Marti Clark and Trish Edwards led the ceremony that included an invocation, a poem read by Paige Casper, a domestic violence survivor, and words from Yager’s family.

“I lived that way for 12 years because I didn’t feel I had any other choice,” Casper said about why she decided to participate. “After receiving help from the Genieve Shelter I know that women should not have to live in fear of their spouse.”

“This was a spiritually rewarding endeavor,” said Clark. “At both events, survivors came up to say thank you and were brave enough to share their stories with us.” According to Clark, calls are still coming in from those that were touched by the words of Latus, the survivors and the Partner family. “If just one person’s life is saved by what they heard or saw this past week, then our work is successful,” added Clark.

A raffle by the GFWC Franklin Junior Woman’s Club raised $150 for Amy’s Courage Fund. The fund is named after Latus’ sister and gives money to women who need to flee — for everything from travel expenses, security deposits and car repairs to legal and medical fees. The donation was made in memory of Amy Partner Yager.

Information was available at both events about types of domestic violence, how to seek help, how to help a friend, the effects of domestic violence on children, teen dating abuse and other local resources.

For more information about domestic violence or to count your voice in a campaign to speak out against Domestic Violence through the Million Voices Campaign, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at or call (800) 799-7233.