Agencies assisting victims of domestic violence ushered in Domestic Violence Awareness month with a variety of activities Monday.
Working Against Violence, Inc., held a noon press conference to introduce the 2012 theme of “Mourn, Celebrate and Connect.”
Later in the day, the South Dakota Coalition Ending Domestic and Sexual Violence commemorated National Unity Day with a Speak Out and Candlelight Vigil in Memorial Park.
October is a time to mourn victims whose lives were lost or damaged by domestic violence, said WAVI’s vice president, Mitchell Stone, at the press conference.
Purple balloons celebrated the success of victims and their families who have escaped domestic violence.
Children who received shelter at WAVI created a banner of paper cutouts symbolizing the community’s efforts to break the cycle of domestic violence.
In 2011, WAVI served 2,187 clients; 2,061 of those were victims of domestic violence. The crisis center fielded 1,635 calls. Shelter stays by adults and children totaled 12,657, with 11 days being the average length of stay.
Domestic violence is an ongoing problem in Rapid City, said assistant police chief Karl Jegeris.
“That’s the bad news,” he said. “The good news is that I’ve seen the system change in the last two decades.”
Victims now have a place to go and a better support system than ever before, Jegeris said.
“They’re not revictimized There’s not the same feeling of hopelessness and despair,” he said.
Abusers are also being held accountable for their crimes, Jegeris said. “Prosecutors are drawing the line and there’s no tolerance for abuse.”
Pennington County State’s Attorney Glenn Brenner said law enforcement and the community have worked together to combat domestic violence.
Brenner created the Domestic Violence Task Force 15 years that had three missions: stop domestic violence, empower the victim and hold the offender accountable, according to Sharon Kallemeyn, a victim’s assistance advocate for Brenner’s office.
The mutual efforts of many to reduce domestic violence and break the cycle of violence is starting to make a difference in Rapid City, Kallemeyn said.
And more victims finding the courage to leave their abusers, Kallemeyn said.
“They're taking that courageous step for their children,” she said.