Programs Highlight Domestic Violence Issues

Spurred onward by the atrocious statistic that Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for men killing women, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, in partnership with statewide nonprofit groups, recently held two events at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta.
Stop Violence Against Women Day
On February 2, 2012, 287 people from across Georgia joined together for the 13th annual Stop Violence Against Women Day. This event — hosted by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Georgia Commission on Family Violence, Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, Men Stopping Violence, Raksha, and Mary Kay, Inc., — allowed attendees to attend a legislative breakfast and speak to fifteen legislators who attended. The entire group then spoke to their legislators.

 The advocates proudly wore stickers that stated, “I’m working to end violence against women,” and demanded attention be paid to victims. They spoke to their legislators to ensure crucial services are not impacted through budget cuts and communicated the need for the state to be vigilant in the quest to end domestic and sexual violence. Additionally, they advocated for several bills supported by the sponsoring organizations.
Stop Violence Against Women Day ended with an inspiring press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. Two sexual assault survivors, Ms. Susan Cash and Ms. Jenny Lynn Anderson, spoke about their experiences of rape and the trauma that follows sexual assault. They also shared powerful narratives describing how they have survived. Both speakers emphasized that having sexual assault services available in all communities is necessary.

The service statistics of Georgia state-certified domestic violence and sexual assault programs tell the story of just a small percentage of victims who find the courage and strength to reach out for help. From October 2010 through September 2011, Georgia’s 46 state-certified domestic violence programs provided shelter to over 9,500 victims and their children and answered nearly 67,000 crisis calls, while being forced to turn away about 2,900 victims and their children due to lack of available bed space. From July 2010 through July 2011, Georgia’s 24 state-funded sexual assault programs served 5,575 victims of rape and sexual assault, including 1,685 child victims, and answered over 7,100 crisis calls.

Ms. Barbara Maples, a survivor of domestic violence, also shared her story of faith and recovery from a long-term abusive marriage. The speakers told the crowd that the impact of this violence extends into the larger community, generating public safety and healthcare costs and reducing worker productivity. They also said that there is a serious need for the judges, law enforcement, prosecutors, faith communities, healthcare practitioners, schools, and community groups to do their part in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.
Fatality Review Published
On March 12, 2012, advocates and state leaders once again gathered in the Capitol Rotunda in Atlanta to hear about the findings of Georgia’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review report, a joint project of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Judge Peggy H. Walker, Juvenile Court, Douglas Judicial Circuit; House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey; and Dr. Mesha Ellis, Morehouse School of Medicine, discussed recent domestic violence homicides and ways in which Georgia is now taking domestic violence more seriously. Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein, Supreme Court of Georgia; Mr. Brian Owens, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Corrections; Mr. James Donald, Chairman, Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles; Rep. Penny Houston; court employees; GCFV staff; and advocates attended the event.

Dr. Mesha Ellis recounted some stories to illustrate the lives of the 108 Georgians killed because of domestic violence during 2011. After each story, she indicated how many citizens the state had lost, saying, “One dead, two dead, two more dead....” Her words echoed among the somber crowd in the Capitol Rotunda.

The Fatality Review is published to honor the people who have died, support those who are surviving, and prevent children from witnessing and experiencing physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse. It also provides analysis and recommendations for systems change, which will lead to lower homicide rates.

House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey focused on a bill he introduced this session, HB 711, which would eliminate the spousal privilege in domestic violence cases and give domestic violence and sexual assault advocates confidentiality rights. He passionately spoke out about over 25 deaths that had happened in the previous two months.
“I am done tiptoeing around this issue because it is uncomfortable to talk about. I am done dancing around the fact that men are killing women in this state.” Rep. Lindsey also mentioned that HB 711, which awaits the Governor’s signature, would ensure that Georgia does not lose millions of dollars in federal and state funding for domestic violence services.

Judge Peggy Walker shared a story from the Fatality Review about a woman who was shot in her head, neck, and hand by her husband. Judge Walker used the story to illustrate some of the main findings of the Fatality Review.

Judge Walker concluded the press conference by urging attendees to create change in their communities. “Thankfully, Lori is still alive. But, we do not want to continue to review fatalities in Georgia. Yet, we must do so as long as Georgians are dying at the hands of those who are supposed to love them. That is why we are joining together with legislators, citizens, law enforcement, faith communities, workplaces, and nonprofit groups to speak out against domestic violence. We look at the gaps in our communities and also identify crucial intervention points in the lives of victims and abusers.”

Both events aimed to increase public awareness of action to end violence against women in Georgia. To learn more about this work, please visit


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