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September 27th, 2023


Leader & Times

Statistics show on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Statistics also show 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

With such harsh statistics, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and a pair of local entities are coming together for an upcoming event. The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee and Liberal Area Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Services (LARC/DVS) are teaming up for a Shine the Light on Domestic Violence event, which will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 in Light Park. As coordinator Presephoni Fuller tells it, the inspiration for the event was rather interesting. 

“There was a day I was talking to some people with LARC/DVS, I asked if they had anything in particular planned for October since it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month. They said no, and so we began sharing ideas, and an idea I had was creating luminaries that featured silhouettes and real stories of women who had lost their lives to domestic violence and ultimately shine a light on the issue,” Fuller said. “I'm also the president of the MLK Jr. Committee, and Dr. King was an advocate of peace and nonviolence in everything, and he famously said how darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that, and how hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. When it comes to an issue like domestic violence, it's about loving our families enough to get involved if something is going on. Unfortunately, domestic violence is not something people like to talk about – if there's talk about a Relay for Life or a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event, there's talk about that, but domestic violence is something that often gets overshadowed and hushed up. However, I consider domestic violence to be a cancer on society that eats away at the lives of the people involved – it's often said how high blood pressure is the leading silent killer, but to me, it's domestic violence. A woman will succumb to all types of abuse, whether it's verbal, physical, mental, etc. – silently – all by herself, and we want to shine a light on domestic violence in order to make people more aware of just how prevalent it is.” 

Fuller added there will be a lot to take in that evening, and emphasized the importance of the event.

“That night will include a luminary walk featuring multiple stories, a dance performance from a local young lady, refreshments, and a candlelight vigil at the end in order to remember victims,” Fuller said. “Everyone knows someone either currently going through such a situation or someone who's dealt with it at some point in the past. And that abuse can also include threats against you or your children, threats against your economic freedom. Another tragedy with domestic violence is how many of the victims often leave behind children, and that's where Sylvia's Purple Box: The Fragrance of Hope, which is my non-profit named after my mother, who took her own life when I was young. I still remember all of the arguments and screaming and multiple beatings my mother received at the hands of her abusers. As I began to become an advocate for domestic violence, I noticed when I would go and talk to women and help them, the children often had nothing. It's traumatic for a child to be separated from their family, it's traumatic for children seeing their parent bloodied and disoriented from the beating. Oftentimes, the officers aren't fully trained in dealing with children – they know how to work with the adults, but not so much with children in those sorts of situations. With that in mind, I'm hoping to help create purple boxes that include positive stickers and some other items so the children know that box is something that belongs to them. Often, children in domestic violence situations are children who receive hand-me-downs, are unloved and are isolated, which could lead to them becoming victims again. I was also recently talking to Chief (Chet) Pinkston, and he gave me some numbers that were astounding to see, because there have been several domestic violence calls and arrests that have happened in town.”

Fuller said she hopes the event will inspire the community to come together to combat domestic violence. 

“With the Fragrance of Hope, when you get a perfume, the chemists use several different types of combinations before coming to the scent they actually want, so I want our Fragrance of Hope to include the school board, the county commission, the city commission, the police department, the hospital, and all the other care agencies in the community, because all of those components make up the combination that can help end domestic violence, and we all must work together for that to happen and help break the cycle,” Fuller said. “If you're in a situation where your partner hits you and then later says 'It'll never happen again,' don't believe it, because too often, it's a lie, and we want people to value themselves and know they are valuable and they are worth love.”

Fuller said her own story has inspired her advocacy against domestic violence. 

“I saw alcohol and domestic violence destroy so much of my family, including my mother, my father, my stepfather, my grandfather, several aunts and uncles and cousins, among many others, so I've lived through this myself,” Fuller said. “I remember very clearly from my childhood with my mother, if dinner wasn't hot, that earned her a beating, or if something was out of place, or if she didn't get him a drink fast enough. I remember how awful it was seeing my mother beaten so badly and to the point where the police knew our address by heart and told her multiple times 'All you have to do is press charges.' But she knew that was going to be only a temporary solution and once he got out, that would cause an even worse beating. She was thinking about me and my siblings and when she wrote her suicide note, she included who she wanted us to live with – that's how bad it was and how badly she wanted us out of that situation. She was 32 years old when she took her life – she got dressed, took a cab, went to a particular spot, and jumped off a bridge into the water. She was found by a group of fishermen at 3 a.m. and then later on that day is when I found out what had happened from my uncle. We have to rise up and shine a bright light on this situation and speak out and talk to each other about loving one another and caring about each other. The question is always 'Why didn't she leave,' and the answer, most of the time, is because she legitimately didn't have the strength to leave because they're so beaten down and terrified. I've told my children my own story multiple times and I encourage them to be vigilant with their friends and be strong – if you see something or notice something, there's something going on that needs to be addressed.”

Fuller said she and the other coordinators have high expectations for the event. 

“We're definitely expecting quite a few people, I know there's already been quite a bit of talk around town about it. And I wanted the MLK Jr. Committee to get involved because I want us to be seen at other times of the year besides just January,” Fuller said. “I want us to have something going on at least once every quarter. We'd love to see this get bigger and better as time goes on and we're proud to be partnering with LARC/DVS on such an important issue. We're also talking to other local media and talking about this on social media, so there's no reason people shouldn't know this event is going on next month. I want to emphasize how violence is NEVER acceptable, at any level. Jesus says 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the kingdom of God.' There are many better ways for people to resolve their difficulties/disagreements, and if people would think through things and go for those methods first, the world would be much better.”