Walk Promotes Domestic Violence Awareness
Along with being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The 22nd annual Walk Against Domestic Violence and the 17th annual Unity Day took place Friday in downtown Jamestown. Members of Zonta International, the United Way, survivors, supporters and local officials joined in the walk down Third Street toward City Hall.
“Everything starts with youth,” said Marsha Restivo, a member of the local Zonta group. “We need to teach our children that abuse is not OK. We need to show our sons that kind of behavior is not OK and we need to show our daughters how to be strong and speak up for themselves.”
The march started at Northwest Arena and ended at the city Municipal Building where Mayor Sam Teresi was waiting. The participants waved and smiled at onlookers, passing out green-and-purple ribbons to spread awareness. The event was sponsored by Chautauqua County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
“It’s important that everyone sends the message that domestic abuse is unacceptable,” said state Assemblyman Andy Goodell. “There’s absolutely no good, legitimate reason to engage in domestic violence of any kind.”
Goodell is supporting legislation to increase criminal sanctions for those who engage in domestic violence and to create a domestic violence registry similar to the registry for sex abuse. That way, he said, people would know what they’re getting into before getting into a relationship with an abuser.
Goodell also introduced legislation to increase the financial ramifications of domestic abuse by allowing land owners to hold abusers accountable for damage done to the property.
“As a society, everyone has to say it is unacceptable. There is no excuse and it has to stop,” Goodell said.
Guest speakers included John Rader of the Jamestown Police Department, Natasha Juna from Prevention Works, Ella Jay, who read a poem about domestic abuse, and Diana Butcher, the keynote speaker.
“I want to thank those who take a stand against domestic violence and having a meaningful impact on the lives of the victims, including their families,” Teresi said. “These organizations do every day what we try to do for the month.”
Borrello said he was also in favor of a domestic abuse registry, saying that he had his own personal experience with someone who was an abuser. Butcher said Chautauqua County ranked No. 8 out of 62 counties in New York for reporting crimes of domestic violence, which was “not a good number.”
“The criminal justice report also spoke about child abuse,” she said. “We have twice the state average rate of child abuse, which is clearly an issue for us. We can’t also forget that inter-personal violence, domestic violence and sexual assault are the least reported crimes.”
Butcher said a lot of the problem stems from established and outdated culture norms. She added that the younger generation is speaking out, demanding to see and say that things need to change.
“I hope that one day we won’t need a Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” Butcher said. “And I hope that day will be in our life time.”