October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Laurel, Jones County
Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee and Jones County Board of Supervisors President Jerome Wyatt signed proclamations recognizing October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Every minute of every day, someone becomes a victim of domestic violence,” said Becky Stewart, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter. One in four women and one in seven men will become victims of domestic violence, she added.
The shelter, which serves 11 counties, has been here for 38 years and, unfortunately, the need continues, Stewart said.
“It all starts at home,” she said. “Help us eradicate domestic violence.”
Cynthia Gully, whose daughter Ishaunna Gully Bettis was a victim of domestic violence, was shot in 2002 and is now confined to a wheelchair. She thanked the victims’ advocates for all they do, but she picked up on what Stewart said and told parents they have to do their part, too.
“Boys and young men need to learn how to treat women and children,” she said. “Teach children what they should and should not do.”
If they don’t, then “movies, music and social media will,” she said.
“My child is forever in a wheelchair, but she’s a survivor,” Gully said.
Tia Cooper, who is victims’ advocate for the Laurel Police Department, said that she and victims’ advocates for the Jones County District Attorney’s Office and Jones County Sheriff’s Department and local law enforcement agencies were “joining forces” to make a stand against the crime.
“Domestic violence in Jones County is real,” District Attorney Tony Buckley said. “Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, jealousy or just plain meanness, there’s no excuse for it … and there needs to be accountability.”
The theme this year is “No Excuse for Abuse.”
The proclamation that Magee read noted that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, sex or socioeconomic status, and children who live in that kind of environment often grow up to perpetuate “a cycle of violence.”
Efforts to stop it “must extend beyond the criminal justice system to include housing and economic advocacy for survivors,” but abusers must be held accountable and punished “to the fullest extent of the law” to prevent them from continuing to inflict abuse, according to the proclamation.
People can help the cause this and every month by “promoting peace in our own families,” Magee read, and concluded by expressing “appreciation for those victims and crime survivors who have turned personal tragedy into a motivating force to improve our response to victims of crime and build a more just community.”
In the supervisors’ meeting, Stewart thanked the board for their financial support of the shelter over the years. She said it would not be possible to get the grants that require matching funds and to help the victims without their annual donation.
“Thank you for what you do to help the victims,” Stewart said.
Priscilla Sims of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, whose mother Becky Sims opened the shelter in 1981, now serves as a victims’ advocate for the JCSD. She also thanked the board for their support. Deborah Warren serves as the victims’ advocate for the DA’s office.
“I know this has become a routine event,” Wyatt said of the proclamation-signing, “but I hope it is not considered routine in the community. It’s a very serious offense.”