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Ohio unites to educate about domestic violence

Every 15 seconds, numbers flashed bold and black in stark contrast against the white projector screen. The numbers reached 127 by the end of the news conference — the number of people beaten during a domestic dispute in 35 minutes.

“(Domestic violence) is an epidemic,” said June Gutterman, CEO of Jewish Family Services, kicking off Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the Statehouse atrium yesterday. “One in four women experience domestic violence. One in three teens will experience an abusive dating relationship.”

The crowd of about 40 sported all shades of purple, from lilac to violet, like a patchwork quilt of supporters. They sat in utter silence, eyes toggling between the stark numbers ticking off rapidly as speakers called people to participate in the Purple Night Lights Campaign, designed to educate people about domestic violence.

“We want to shine a light where there are closed doors ... because this is where domestic violence grows,” Gutterman said. “The purple — it’s the color of a bruise. We are all wearing different shades of purple, which is emblematic of a bruise.”

My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence shelter in Athens, has seen the average length of stay in the shelter triple in the past five years, said Kelly Cooke, executive director. In 2006, the average stay was 15 days; this year, the average is 46 days.

In addition, on-campus assaults have increased from eight in 2009 to 12 in 2010, according to the Clery Report.

Cooke attributes the increase to the economy and the difficulty individuals have finding a new place to stay.

“We help as much as we can, but we have had to turn people away,” said Cooke. “It’s a really difficult thing to do, because they’re in danger.

Jewish Family Services and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network will host various events throughout the state this month to raise awareness for this violence, as part of the third annual campaign.

At night, the AEP building and LeVeque Tower will light the Columbus skyline with purple to remind passers-by of domestic violence victims.

Cincinnati, Cleveland and 17 counties are joining the effort to educate residents about this continuing problem, Gutterman said.

“This is a devastating problem that affects all types of people regardless of race, age, gender, religion or socio-economic group,” said Rep. Anne Gonzales, R-19th. “The hurt doesn’t stop with the injuries.”

Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, R-83rd and once a domestic relations lawyer announced a resolution signed by the Ohio General Assembly recognizing domestic violence as an important problem that needs to be highlighted.

Though there is no domestic violence legislation pending, Gonzalez said she and Gutterman will meet to discuss what needs to be brought to the table.

One such problem, Pelanda noted, is that many people do not come forward, or they come forward but recant their statements out of fear that the court system will fail them.

“It’s the 24-to-72 hour syndrome,” Pelanda said. “Most clients don’t want to come forward.”

Gutterman said she hopes the campaign will help alleviate this fear.

—Ryan Clark contributed to this article.


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