"Domestic Violence Thrives On Silence"
Annual 'Walk A Mile In Her Shoes' event held Friday afternoon to bring awareness to domestic violence issue in Calhoun-Gordon County
DORIAN JOHNSON WON THE BEST SHOE CONTEST. (BRANDI OWCZARZ/STAFF)
The annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, a men’s march to not only bring awareness of domestic violence in our community, but to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence, was held at BB&T Park in downtown Calhoun on Friday afternoon, drawing more than 100 people who walked a mile in the downtown area to bring awareness of domestic violence in the Calhoun-Gordon County community.
Gordon County Domestic Violence Outreach Office’s Beth Peters, the outreach coordinator, and Debbie Lane, legal advocate, were on hand welcoming the walkers to one of the hottest walks on record, where the temperature was in 90’s.
A Best Shoe Contest was held for the men who
walked, and the winner was Dorian Johnson of Fit From The Core, who wore a bright red pair of 6-inch heels during the whole walk.
Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston, Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle, and Gordon County Assistant DA Elizabeth York were all on hand to address the walkers prior to taking the streets of downtown Calhoun.
“Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world,” said Gordon County Mitch Ralston. “But no one should be a victim of domestic violence. It’s important for the victims to know there is support out here for them, and events like this draw attention to that.”
Ralston said that in addition to the importance of drawing attention to domestic violence and the victims, it was even more important to make sure the violators get the maximum sentence or penalty.
“That’s why it’s important to monitor what is going on in our courts and make sure these violators are getting the maximum penalty,” said Sheriff Ralston.
“We just had a homicide take place a couple of weeks ago, and it involved domestic violence,” continued Sheriff Ralston. “We never want to see that. You as a family member, or if there’s someone you know that’s being victimized in domestic violence, please report that…report that to law enforcement. We’ll make sure these people are held accountable for their actions.”
Sheriff Ralston also thanked the local Domestic Violence Outreach Office and Peters for serving the community, and bringing awareness of the domestic violence situation by putting on events like Walk A Mile.
“I know Beth’s just one phone call away,” said Sheriff Ralston. “She always answers her phone, any time of the day or night; she’s going to be there for the victim.”
GORDON COUNTY SHERIFF MITCH RALSTON (BRANDI OWCZARZ/STAFF)
CALHOUN CHIEF OF POLICE TONY PYLE (BRANDI OWCZARZ/STAFF)
“I read something several years back that kind of surprised me when I read it, the number one cause of injuries for women in the United States of America is domestic violence; more than car accidents or any other crimes perpetrated against them by strangers is domestic violence,” said Chief Pyle. “And that kind of shocked me, because I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know men can be victims of domestic violence, but it is predominantly women that are affected.”
Chief Pyle said most people in the community are surprised there is a problem with domestic violence in our area.
“Oftentimes, I have people ask me, ‘Is there a drug problem in Calhoun? Are there gang members in Calhoun? Do we really have a domestic violence issue in Calhoun?’ When I say ‘Yes to all of the above,' a lot of times it surprises people, and what really surprises them is that there is a domestic violence problem in our community.”
Chief Pyle said he has one detective dedicated solely to domestic violence cases.
“It’s unfortunate that we have the need to have one detective specifically for domestic violence. And we have other guys (at the station) who support him as well,” said Chief Pyle.
Chief Pyle stressed the importance of speaking up if you know someone who is being abused, and that there is help in our community for victims.
“It takes events like this, and getting the word out...that we have a police department, a Sheriff’s Office, a domestic violence center, victims’ advocates…if you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, please share that information with them. There is help,” said Chief Pyle. “We’re here to help – that’s our job. Sometimes people tell me, ‘We don’t want to bother you.’ You’re not bothering me; that’s my job and that’s what I’m paid for.
“Domestic violence thrives on silence,” continued Chief Pyle. “As we know, like with any other crime, there’s a stigma attached to it, and I think these types of events help relieve the stigma attached to the issue of domestic violence.”
Chief Pyle also gave high praise to the local Domestic Violence Outreach Office, saying that Peters and Lane are experts in domestic violence and are awesome representatives of victims of domestic violence.
York is assigned specifically to domestic violence cases. She has been with the Gordon County DA’s Office for 13 years and works to get maximum sentences for violators.
“We have such a need in our community (concerning domestic violence) that I work specifically domestic violence cases,” said York. “One of the questions I get a lot is, ‘Why did a survivor of domestic violence make the choices that they made? Why did they stay?’ I get that all the time. At that time, we talk about what domestic violence really is. Most victims of domestic violence, it starts with the emotional abuse, it starts with the mental abuse, it starts with that control that an individual has over a victim. It’s hard to understand why (the victim) makes they choices they do unless you’re the one with three kids who is isolated from your family because of things that have happened, who has no job and nowhere to go and doesn’t believe they’re worth the effort that someone would put in to help them. That is what is so important about what we’re doing here today. We’re talking about domestic violence and we’re talking about walking in her shoes.
“It’s not just about what your choice would be; it’s about understanding where she (a domestic violence victim), or he, is in her life and understanding that it’s the hardest walk they will ever make when they walk away,” continued York. “And what we need to do as a community is be there to support them in the choices they make even when we don’t understand, so that they have that support, they have someone to be there for them, so that we can break this cycle that goes on in families.”
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence in the Calhoun-Gordon County area, the local 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 706-278-5586; TTY: 706-529-9336.
GORDON COUNTY ASSISTANT DA ELIZABETH YORK (BRANDI OWCZARZ/STAFF)