Cases shine light on domestic abuse issue

Published 10:14 am Saturday, February 13, 2010

To the Editor:

Alissa Blanton. Danielle Knarr. These two victims of domestic violence were murdered in the last few days and have made national headlines.

Instead of looking at the stories as sensational, it is time our community realizes that these stories are real and happen more often than many people would care to admit. At The Genieve Shelter, we see every day how victims of various forms of domestic violence are overlooked, not taken seriously, or left to feel no one understands what they have gone through. Although our agency exists to assist victims of domestic violence, we cannot do it all alone. We need the support and encouragement of you — citizens in the communities we serve. Our clients need you, too.

Many times, we look at tragic events such as these as senseless. However, instead of asking why, we need to ask how can we help?

The most important thing citizens can do is become aware of and educated about domestic violence — and all its forms. These two fatal examples illustrate the vast spectrum of domestic violence.

Alissa Blanton, a victim of stalking, had been dealing with her murderer for two years. She was in the process of seeking a protective order through her local court system in Florida. Danielle Knarr, a Newport News victim of intimate partner violence, had previously filed charges against her boyfriend for assault.

Both of these victims had, in one way or another, reached out for help. They had both sought help from the justice system, which is what many victims are encouraged to do.

However, as we can see, the justice system is just that — a system. It does not go home with you and keep you safe. When used correctly, it can compel harmful persons not to hurt others and it can compel perpetrators to stay away from victims. And sometimes it punishes perpetrators for their crimes. But it cannot replace the human aspect of reaching out to another person for support, encouragement, and understanding.

We can all be better community members by listening to each other and offering an understanding ear.

One in four women will be abused at least once in her lifetime. If the rest of us are willing to educate ourselves, we can fight back — through encouragement and support. We can let it be known that we are willing to stand by victims, no matter what, to see that they are kept safe.

If you would like more information about domestic violence, how you can help, or to receive help for yourself, please call our office at 925-4365 or our 24-hour hotline at 1-800-969-4365.

Melissa Hedelius

parent/community educator

The Genieve Shelter