Story by: Rebecca J. Barnabi
A community conversation Wednesday at the Waynesboro Democratic Committee Headquarters will be focused on an issue that affects women, children and men across the United States.
The Rev. Marion Kanour, founder of the Nelson County Domestic Violence Task Force will speak and lead discussion on domestic violence.
The event is hosted by the Waynesboro Democratic Committee and the Augusta County Democratic Committee.
“We’re hoping first just to get a good crowd of folks interested in the topic,” said Jennifer Lewis, vice chair of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee, of Wednesday’s discussion.
Lewis’ first job out of college was as a rape counselor at a domestic violence safe house in upstate New York.
“It’s an issue that’s very near and dear to my heart,” Lewis said of domestic violence.
And an issue that’s not unheard of in the media recently in the Valley.
Lewis said her shift was 4 p.m. to midnight and she would often have the task of picking up a woman, sometimes she had children, and whatever belongings she had been able to take to escape an abusive significant other, and Lewis drove the woman to the safe house, the location of which was kept secret in the community.
“I did that work, and I know — just hearing the stories of these women — and men — the impacts of domestic violence on children is lifelong,” Lewis said.
Often, Lewis said, an investigation into a woman’s death caused by domestic violence turns up the fact that she had a restraining order against her murderer before she was killed.
“And it’s something that’s very rampant not just in the Valley, but in America,” Lewis said.
Lewis said that she has three sisters, and when she informed their father that statistically one in every four American women is sexually assaulted at some point in her life, he was in shock.
“So, I think it’s just something we need to keep talking about,” Lewis said of domestic violence.
She added that women and men can be victims of domestic violence.
After Kanour speaks Wednesday night, Lewis said, the audience will be invited to begin an open discussion on the topic.
“Our whole point of this is to get discussion going,” Lewis said.
The committee hopes that discussion will lead “to more involvement and awareness of all issues that impact our community.”
The Nelson County Task Force, according to a press release, was founded in 2014 to provide resources and transition housing for crime victims in Nelson County.
“But for the sake of one person that can make a break from domestic violence, it is worth it,” said Kanour in the press release. “It’s hard work.”
The committee’s press release stated that 10 million across the U.S. are physically abused by a significant other according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Virginia Department of Health found 33 percent of homicides in Virginia in 2016 were committed by an intimate partner.
According to Lewis, the committee has agreed to keep its headquarters open year round this year, and host monthly community conversations “just to keep people engaged in the political process — and social awareness.”
Domestic violence was chosen as March’s discussion topic because International Women’s Day was March 8.
Future discussions are scheduled the third Wednesday of each month based upon speaker availability. Next month’s discussion will be about public banking.
Lewis said a recent bill in Virginia will push for public banking, which is already available in North Dakota. Interest from public banking goes back to funding public schools in that state.
“We want to engage and inform people on issues that affect our community,” said Waynesboro Democratic Committee Chairperson Tiffany Potter in the press release. “Through these conversations, we hope to share ideas, information, and experience to affect positive change.”
Everyone is welcome to Wednesday’s discussion, regardless of political beliefs, Lewis said.
She said that the committee hopes community members hear that message, “and really understand that we mean that.”
The committee, Lewis said, wants to be a part of changing the dialogue “and how we treat each other.”
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