Prompted by an “alarming number” of domestic violence murders in Mecklenburg County, a community organization wants to educate residents about domestic violence and how to prevent it.
DV Snapshot: A Community Conversation will be held Oct. 14 in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is the first event the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Domestic Violence Advisory Board has held since its formation in the early 1990s, said chairwoman Li Mia Bowen.
Advisory board vice chairman Patrick Burris said seven domestic violence homicides were reported in Mecklenburg County last year, an “alarming number” that became a catalyst for the advisory board to go beyond its usual role of advocacy and evaluation of county services .
“We needed to do something to really highlight our mission ... and do more to highlight what domestic violence is, what it isn’t, and what the DVAB’s role is in Mecklenburg County.”
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Advisory board members are volunteers who are appointed by and report to the Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners.
The advisory board meets monthly to evaluate and review services for local domestic violence victims; provides an annual report to elected officials and makes recommendations accordingly. The board – which is also part of the county’s Women’s Commission – also advocates prevention of domestic violence and the related costs that domestic violence brings to victims and the community.
“We’re elated to be doing something different and creative but staying in the focus of our mission statement,” Bowen said.
The number of local domestic violence homicides has actually declined in recent years, however, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. There were 15 domestic violence homicides reported in 2008; 10 in 2009, 14 in 2010 and nine in 2011, according to CMPD.
Organizers believe the event will help not only to those with work related to domestic violence but also parents, teens, educators, , faith-based organizations and community members in general, Burris said.
“We’re hoping law enforcement; stakeholders providing services and individuals who need help themselves will come out,” he said. “We’d like to make new partners that we may not be aware of ... and link with people who are providing services.”
During the meeting, the advisory board will present local statistics – and how they compare to national numbers – as well as the recommendations made to elected officials earlier this year for reducing cases of domestic violence and ensuring adequate support services are in place , Bowen said.
A panel discussion with professionals who work with batterers and survivors will follow the presentation, Bowen said. Panel members include representatives from Safe Alliance, Crisis Assistance Ministry and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; assistant district attorney Jamie Adams and Tony Porter from A Call To Men, a national violence prevention organization, Bowen said.
Girl Talk Foundation Founder Janine Davis will serve as the discussion moderator.
“We wanted to have a diverse panel (attendees can relate to),” Bowen said, adding victims of domestic violence include men, not just women and children.
The group hopes meeting attendees will leave as “change agents within their communities,” Bowen said, whether through volunteering, working on public policy or simply sharing what they’ve learned.
“We want them to have the confidence to speak up and speak out ... Their call to action is being more enlightened and more proactive in trying to eradicate (domestic violence,)” Bowen said.
Burris said as a male, he has a personal stake in domestic violence education as a survivor of childhood abuse. He encouraged anyone who may need assistance, is indirectly affected or who partners with service providers to attend.
“Violence is what it is and can affect anyone,” Burris said. “That’s why I serve.”