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Community unites to “end the silence on domestic violence”

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) – Domestic violence cases in Leon County are on the rise, something we’ve been talking about since the start of the pandemic. This is a problem that will not go away until more is done to provide relief to those who are suffering at the hands of someone else. On Wednesday, community organizations came together to show victims that they are not alone.

“The acts of violence were much more brutal and the injuries were much more serious.”

Refuge House provides domestic violence support with emergency shelter, counseling and more. The organization typically sees up to 6,500 people per year, but that number has declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic; with fewer people able to run away to call for help.

Emily Mitchem is the executive director and has said those arriving need more medical attention than ever before. “The pressure and not being able to escape the aggressor, the victims were really, really hurt.”

Nine in ten sexual assault victims know the person who assaulted them, according to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Walter McNeil said that is why it is important to anticipate the problem before a history of domestic violence repeats itself. Sheriff McNeil said “the idea is to find ways to identify problems and deal with them up front.”

The Domestic Violence Coordinating Council convened the community on Wednesday, the five Leon County Police and Sheriff Departments covered their patrol cars with a “end the silence on domestic violence” message.

DVCC director Kelly O’Rourke said it was important to pay attention to warning signs such as arguments, bullying, threats of violence and public humiliation. O’Rourke said: “Just because someone is smiling or you don’t see bruises doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of emotional or verbal abuse.”

Kisha Wilkinson is a domestic violence survivor and said what she saw growing up made her think everything was fine, but she wanted it to stop and hopes it will pave the way for more. Wilkinson said: “It allows someone to say ‘I can do that too, she was a single mom, she went through that and she was successful’ because of the support that is out there.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To honor survivors and those in need of help, the DVCC is now calling on businesses and community members to unite by placing purple ribbons on their windows throughout the month. DVCC will provide supplies to anyone who needs them … just give them a call and they will come to you.

On Friday, the Capitol and the Leon County Courthouse will light up purple during the first week of October for domestic violence awareness.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please call the helpline number 1- (800) 799-SAFE (7233).

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