By CHARLIE BOOTHE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON, W.Va. — Mercer County ranks second in the state in the number of domestic violence incidents reported a year.
That was a grim statistic Twelfth Family Circuit Court Chief Judge Lisa Clark (Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming counties) told the crowd gathered at the Mercer Courthouse Monday afternoon to bring attention to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The event was hosted by SAFE (Stop Abusive Family Environments).
Clark said domestic violence touches all areas of society.
“No socio-economic groups are spared,” she said.
Tackling the problem requires the collaboration of many entities, she said, pointing out SAFE as well as Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Kelli Harshbarger and Magistrates Sandra Dorsey and Charlie Poe, all in attendance.
“We all work together with law enforcement,” she said.
Legislators have also been helpful, she said, being “very aggressive” in domestic violence statutes.
Some changes in laws have helped, particularly adding perpetrators of domestic violence to a registry, which allows the removal of firearms from their homes as well alerts police officers who they may be dealing with if they get a call.
“That (answering domestic situation calls) is always dangerous,” she said. “They never know what they are walking into.”
The registry is “extremely effective” and saves lives, she added.
Clark said the October Domestic Violence Awareness event is held each year. “Sometimes we do it in McDowell County.”
SAFE provides a hotline 24 hours a day with magistrates on call ready to help.
“They will come out in the middle of the night,” she said.
Clark also said there is an outreach program related to teen dating violence.
“We want them to see the red flags, the warning signs … that they are in a dangerous relationship,” she said.
SAFE also has transitional housing in Bluefield for women and children who need to escape abuse situations, said Pat Daniels, coordinator of court advocates for SAFE.
Daniels said she has been involved in helping stop domestic violence for 30 years and she has seen no improvement.
“It seems like the abuse is getting more severe,” she said, adding that help is always available.
Daniels said she thinks one problem has been and continues to be that “perpetrators are not being held accountable.”
Those who are guilty of domestic violence should be held accountable, she said, and if they knew they would be punished it may help stop them.
Poe said he thinks education is a component of prevention that should be emphasized more.
Kids often witness the violence at home, he said, but don’t attend an event like Monday’s to see a positive influence.
Poe said domestic violence is often generational, but education can help break that cycle.
To inject the real impact of domestic violence, Eric Bailey read a letter written by his wife, Amanda, who lost her sister to domestic violence.
The letter detailed the difficulties of doing things like celebrating holidays without a loved one, and encouraged anyone in an abusive situation to get help.
For those wanting help, the hotline number is 800-688-6157.
Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]
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