Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than accidents and rapes combined. It is about power and control, a crime and a choice made by a person.
The United States Department of Justice has described domestic violence as the most common but least reported crime in America. These facts were distributed by vendors at the Walk of Hope for Domestic Violence at the College of Central Florida.
CF hosted the 3rd annual walk on the morning of Saturday, September 13, In memory of one of CF’s former employees, Debra Vasquez, who died in 2004 from domestic abuse. About 600 people were in attendance, and took on the three-mile distance from the Ocala Police Department to CF.
Along the walk, volunteers helped distribute water and snacks while cheering the walkers on. CF will continue to host the Walk of Hope event, as the school recognizes the importance to increase awareness.
“The idea is to get people talking about it,” said Karla Wilson, associate professor at CF and co-coordinator of the Walk of Hope. “It would be really powerful.”
Statistics show that 960,000 domestic violence incidents occur per year, but only 25% are reported to police.
“Something has to be done,” said Monica Bryant, the Family Violence Prevention Coordinator at the Marion County Children’s Alliance. Bryant stated that since 1997 there have been over 80 domestic violence incidents in Marion County.
Back at the college, guest speaker Sheriff Chris Blair spoke about his sister, Jean Blair Hynes, who was killed by her husband at the age of 26.
“Today we work towards breaking the silence,” Blair said. “It is so important that we recognize that.”
The Walk of Hope encourages people to speak up and spread awareness about domestic violence.
Antwoinette Hayes, a close friend of a fellow CF student and the daughter of a domestic violence survivor, also participated in the walk.
“This cause is very dear to my heart,” said Hayes. “Seeing it happen to my mother for so many years; it’s something that shouldn’t be swept under the rug.” Hayes also said that she was fortunate to have helped her mother seek help. “My only hope is to help as many people as I can.”
For information or to get help, please contact the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-500-1119, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
By: Michelle Velez