Display seeks to raise domestic violence awareness | SierraSun.com

Display seeks to raise domestic violence awareness

If you look at the statistics, most women in America experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.

Valerie Forsyth of Truckee, now a wife and mother of two, remembers her first boyfriend and the experiences she had with domestic violence.

“I was young and stupid, but I left before it got too bad. I just left – moved out – decided it wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my life. That was 20 years ago,” she said.

However, the decision wasn’t that simple at the time. There are myriad reasons women remain in situations where abuse is common. Financial restraints, children or the threat of future violence inhibit battered women from leaving an abusive lover. In other cases, young women may not realize that a higher quality of life awaits should they choose to leave or seek help.

Forsyth said she was at home when a cable technician, a man she knew from high school, arrived and broadened her perspective.

“Here was this good-looking guy I knew from high school, flirting with me, and I decided, hey, I don’t need to live like this,” she said. “I don’t know what would have happened if he didn’t show up. I guess I needed someone from the outside to show me.”

According to Rodney R. Gillespie, a project coordinator with Nevada County’s Victim/Witness Assistance Center, statistics show that women who are under the control of an abuser won’t fully leave that relationship until after seven to nine domestic violence incidents.

Gillespie said five of the last six murders in Nevada County were associated with domestic violence.

To raise awareness about the extent of domestic violence and to help connect people with resources for assistance, Tahoe Women’s Services presented the silent witness exhibit, a series of life-sized, female-shaped placards with descriptions of how certain women died because of domestic violence.

The placards have been on display at numerous locations around the area during the last week, and have helped inform the public that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The silent witness exhibit honors the 19 Nevada state women who were murdered during 1995 in an act of domestic violence. The original silent witness exhibit is a traveling memorial honoring the 26 women who were murdered by their intimate male partners in Minnesota during 1990.

In addition to the placards, a large poster was available for supporters to sign to show their support. Tahoe Women’s Services employees handed out purple ribbons as well.

A non-profit agency, Tahoe Women’s Services provides services for victims of domestic violence that are not available from the current justice system.

“We definitely get more calls on our help line than the sheriff,” Alison Schwedner, a safe house program director, said. “Some victims are not as confident or ready to call the sheriff, or they may be scared. We’re not required to report this information so we help women figure out options and in some cases help them make choices.”

There are three Tahoe Women’s Services offices in the Truckee-Tahoe area. The first North Shore office was established in 1985 in Kings Beach, followed by the Truckee office in 1995 and the Incline Village office in 1996.

“We don’t hesitate at all to make [domestic violence] arrests. Those arrests start the court process,” Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Gary Jacobson said.

“The reporting of domestic violence has improved,” he added. “Tahoe Women’s Services have people on call for us. They are present at the hospital when we are doing investigations. They’re right there with us. I can’t say enough about them.”

Forsyth said the level of awareness has improved the number of options for women who experience domestic violence, which she thinks is helpful. Things have changed since she first experienced domestic violence, she said.

“It took me awhile to talk about it, but nobody should have to go through abuse like that,” she said. “I understand it’s harder when there are kids involved. People need to know that help is available.”

For more information about Tahoe Women’s Services call 582-9117, or for the 24-hour community help line call 546-3241.

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