It could be the sting from cruel and demeaning words, the physical hurt from a brutal strike or the emotional aftermath of an inappropriate touch -- everyday countless Georgia women and children are verbally, physically, emotionally and sexually abused. But on Jan. 31 advocates and concerned citizens from across the state brought their voices together to say this violence must STOP!
Hundreds of people converged on the state Capitol for the Stop Violence Against Women Day. State legislators, community representatives and local and statewide activists attended an event in the morning at Central Presbyterian Church followed by a Noon rally and press conference on the steps of the Capitol. Survivors of sexual and domestic violence shared their emotional stories -- urging lawmakers and citizens to join together quell the violence and improve resources for victims.
"It is my hope the continued attention to Violence Against women will raise awareness, save lives and hold perpetrators accountable," says Sheryl L. Heron, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine and assistant dean, Emory University School of Medicine - Grady Campus. She is co-director of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program of the newly formed Intimate Partner Violence Working Group at Emory University.
"As an Emergency medicine physician, I see far too often the devastation that intimate partner violence inflicts on patients," she says. "Prevention of IPV must be our stance. As physicians, we must be able to assess for IPV, not simply manage injuries and medical complaints.
"Ensuring our patient's are safe and have appropriate resources without blaming the victim is critical for their survival," she continues. "In many instances, we are the front line for care for IPV victims." Dr. Heron was appointed in 2002 by the Governor to serve on the statewide Georgia Commission on Family Violence.
Nationally every 2.5 seconds a woman is raped. One in four women will experience domestic violence. Georgia ranks seventh in the nation for intimate partner homicide. In 2006, 109 Georgians lost their lives to domestic violence. In the same year more than 96,000 crisis calls were made to domestic violence shelters across Georgia but according to Dr. Heron there are many more victims.
"There are likely more woman who suffer in silence than we realize," notes Dr. Heron. "Georgia must know we can certainly do better as a state. Our citizens look to our leadership, our communities and our various agencies for support. Education and awareness on this issue which is rooted in power and control of one partner over another is paramount to our survival as a healthy and progressive state." Domestic violence and sexual assault are leading causes of injuries for girls and women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the state of Georgia. Reports indicate that 30 percent of Georgia women in this age group will be abused at least once by their partners - during their lifetimes. Likewise, one in six women between the ages of 15 and 44 will experience intercourse against her will. Perpetrators in both instances are more likely to be someone the victim knows such as a husband, boyfriend, casual acquaintance or relative. "Sadly, we are still in denial in how many women are affected and frankly don't label Intimate Partner Violence appropriately," she says. "Minimizing the reality that women are injured and as we know by our statistics, fatally injured, is a tragedy. We simply cannot make excuses for the violence, blame victims and not hold perpetrators accountable.".
This year's Stop Violence Against Women Day is sponsored by The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Georgia Coalition on Family Violence, Men Stopping Violence and Tapestri Inc.