YWCA ceremony remembers those who have died due to domestic violence
JANESVILLE Sgt. Anne Brophy remembers one of her first calls as a new Janesville police officer.
It was 29 years ago, and Brophy was responding to a domestic violence report.
A man was kicking and hitting a woman. As Brophy intervened, he said, “She’s my wife, I can beat her if I want.”
In the past 29 years, both laws and attitudes about domestic violence have changed significantly. Even so, women continue to suffer—and die—as a result of domestic violence.
On Tuesday, the YWCA of Rock County held a domestic violence candlelight vigil in the Hedberg Public Library’s program room.
About 50 people attended the event that included a speech by Brophy, a candle-lighting ceremony for the victims of domestic violence and the release of rose petals in their honor.
The roll call of murdered men and women went back to 1984, with one of the most recent being Lisa Schaefer, who was beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2012. Before her was Erica Ostenson, who was shot in 2009 while walking outside with her 5-year-old son.
After Ostenson’s death, the Janesville Police Department, desperate to prevent another homicide, formed the domestic violence intervention team.
The team follows up with victims during the 72-hour no-contact period after a domestic violence call. During that period, the abuser is not allowed to have any contact, either in person or by phone, with the victim.
The meeting allows the victim to hear available options after the tension of the event and the subsequent arrest is over.
It worked. Data collected during the 18 months of the program showed a drop in the number of domestic violence calls.
The department—and Brophy—received awards for their work on the program.
On Tuesday, Brophy said the awards were sad reminders of the violence the whole department and the YWCA are working to combat.
YWCA advocate Jane McCauley said that the police department still gets three to four domestic violence calls each day. “Multiply that by 365—that’s a lot of calls,”
Between October 2011 and September 2012, the YWCA provided 2,879 nights of shelter for women and 3,001 for children. Another 76 women, 11 children and two men received nonresidential services.
A survivor of domestic violence told the audience about her experience. She spent about six months at the shelter.
“My children and I lived in constant fear,” said the woman who used a pseudonym to protect herself and her family. “He was controlling and abusive.”
She talked about how she learned to make better choices in her relationships and the courage she gained to live life on her own while providing for herself and her children.
McCauley said it was important to hear survivors’ stories.
“In the release of silence, we make people more aware,” McCauley said.