Harbor House held a fund-raising breakfast at the First Baptist Church (3000 South John Young Parkway). I was invited by the second Vice President of the Harbor House Board of Directors to attend and sketch. When everyone filed into the room and sat down at the circular dining tables, the first order of business was the screening of a news story about domestic violence. The facts presented were staggering. Between 2009 and 2010 there was a 20% increase in domestic violence cases in Central Florida. As the economy gets worse, the violence in Central Florida is on the rise. Twenty six people died in the last 12 months due to domestic violence. 759 women and children were sheltered from the brink of deadly violence at Harbor House. There is a pandemic of violence by men against women and children in our state.
Carol Wick, the CEO of Harbor House said, "The city beautiful may be considered the happiest place on earth...until you go inside Central Florida homes." She told the story of an event that happened in a quiet neighborhood apartment complex. Neighbors began to hear the screams of a woman calling for help inside an apartment. There were the brutal sounds of her body hitting the walls. Everyone knew what was happening, yet no one called 911. The next morning an elderly woman went to the manager and said, "You better check in that apartment because I think a woman was murdered." The woman had indeed been murdered. This story makes me angry and outraged. Outrage is nothing without action. Some people simply say, "Well why didn't she just leave?" In many cases women were trying to leave an abusive partner when they were killed. Had anyone in that apartment complex called the police, that woman would be alive today.
Carol talked about a new program called Project Courage which engages every member of the community to help stop the violence. This program creates support for survivors of abuse, holds abusers accountable for their actions and teaches all members of a community to recognize abuse, respond to it effectively and refer people to assistance. The glimmer of hope I clung to when confronted with the staggering facts about domestic violence was the idea that none of us is alone, as a community we can help stop the violence. By recognizing how we can help others, we become part of something much larger than ourselves.
Sultana Ali got up and said, "Batterers are the stealers of dreams. Not on our watch will this be allowed to happen anymore." Everyone was asked to vizualize a world in which children do not have to fear going home, a world in which every member of the community actively helps stop the violence. Gifts donated at this fundraiser saved lives.
"So I fight with one hand and love with the other. In my dreams, I love with both hands and the fighting is over." - A Survivor