By ALVIN REINER
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — At a rally here, T-shirts hung on clotheslines told the horrific story of domestic violence and of determined hope.
“I just wanted you to play with me,” was the message written on one of about 70 shirts that carried the words of survivors, their families and friends. “WHY? You caused fear, low self esteem, sadness.
“I’m taking that power back.”
“You were a stranger,” proclaimed another hung on the line on the lawn of the Essex County Courthouse. “I was 12 years old. You said your baby fell down the stairs. You were a Christian, you needed help. You had lied … You took me away and raped me! But I told and you went to prison. You stole my childhood. I’m now 28.
“I’m taking it back.”
AuSable Valley Central School senior Daniel Evans was among those who was moved by the messages.
“It is really heart-breaking to see this,” he said. “What words can you use to really describe what these people went through?
“This is still happening. It just is not right.”
’FIRST RESPONDERS CRITICAL’
A crowd of more than 150 gathered for the recent event hosted by the Essex County Task Force Against Domestic Violence.
They mourned those killed by domestic violence, celebrated the survivors and brought unity to the effort to support the victims.
“It’s very sad and depressing,” AVCS senior Alexis Provost said as she studied the shirts on display.
“I can’t imagine what they and their families went through.”
Program Director Susan Kelley introduced Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague, who thanked everyone who “works tirelessly for the survivors and have them testifying in court.
“The first responders are so critical in getting my statements and helping in our cases.
“As a parent,” she added, “(domestic violence) is heartbreaking and heart-wrenching.
“It’s the whole family that affected.”
’BELIEF IN FUTURE’
Guest speakers Meredith King of Westport and her mother, Carolyn Karcher, spoke eloquently, passionately and forcefully, recounting the events that transpired during a brutal attack by King’s husband, John, on Sept. 25, 2011.
King spoke about living in fear and the legal and financial changes, as well as how the violence marked her children.
“Often the simplest event will ignite a painful memory for the children,” she said. “Just recently my son shared that he worries about my death.
“I cannot overstate, domestic violence does not discriminate. Yes, it can happen to you.”
In February, John King pleaded guilty to felony first-degree strangulation to avoid an attempted murder trial and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and five years of supervision when he gets out.
King is determined to move forward.
“On that day this year,” King said of the anniversary of the attack, “the kids and I laughed, danced, talked and sang; a sharp contrast from two years ago.
“I will think of it as an anniversary, a celebration of freedom, a belief in the future.”
’SOAKED WITH BLOOD’
“Good morning,” Karcher began her remarks. “It is a good morning. My daughter is alive.”
She then graphically described seeing King after the attack.
“No mother should see what I did. My daughter was in a chair; a broken, shattered woman. Her neck was almost completely covered with marks of strangulation. There was blood about her face, her lip was cut, and there was an enormous amount of petechiae (bleeding under the skin) around her face and scalp.
“Her shirt was soaked with blood.”
Many, Karcher said, have asked her why her daughter didn’t leave her husband.
“Unless you have lived with an abuser, you will never be satisfied with an answer.
“No one, no matter what the circumstances,” she concluded her presentation, “has the right to harm another person. No one owns another person.
“The ramifications are broad-based, and the social, mental and physical aspects can be burdensome for generations.
“Domestic violence must be stopped.”
GET THE WORD OUT
Bill Ferebee, Essex County Board of Supervisors vice chair, delivered a proclamation that recognized domestic violence is a widespread serious crime, costs the nation billions of dollars and needs a coordinated community effort to stop.
“In addition, it cited that one in three Americans has witnessed an incident of domestic violence, and children growing up in violent homes are believed to be neglected at a higher rate than the national average.”
As they have done for the past several years, the AuSable Valley Central School jazz choir added their talents to the rally by singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and the poignant “My One True Friend.”
“It’s really sad,” student Tonie Cross said of the stories told by King, Karcher and the T-shirts, “but it gives us a good feeling to come here and sing.”
“It’s inspirational to see that we can get the word out and that we can all come as a jazz choir to experience this,” Nichole Pulsifer said.
Memorial candles and flowers accompanied the names of those who paid the ultimate price of domestic abuse.
The Essex County EMS Association and Elizabethtown Community Hospital were presented plaques for their efforts in assisting domestic violence victims.
The mission of the Essex County Task Force Against Domestic Violence is to “promote education and awareness for all community members; coordinate a community response to domestic violence that will consistently hold offenders accountable; promote victim safety; and reduce violence in the home.”
The Task Force meets next at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Hand House in Elizabethtown.
Victims of domestic violence can call a 24-hour hotline at 888-563-6904. Learn more at Behavioral Health Services North at www.bhsn.org.
For domestic abuse emergencies, call 911.
Email Alvin Reiner at: firstname.lastname@example.org.