Annual courthouse ceremony marks month-long awareness campaign
HENDERSON COUNTY–Courtney Butler still remembers hearing about her sister Alicia’s death nearly three years ago “like it was yesterday.”
Alicia Scott was a Henderson County victim of domestic violence, and her sister Courtney helped mark the beginning of the issue’s month-long awareness campaign on the Henderson County Courthouse lawn Oct. 1.
“You never know who or where the victims are and what you might do to save their lives,” Butler said. “Let their voices be heard through you. You might be the only strength they have.”
Della Cooper is outreach director at East Texas Crisis Center, which helped place shirts on the courthouse lawn as part of the Clothesline Project in conjunction with the October awareness month. Cooper said each shirt is made by a survivor, a family member of a survivor or a family member of a victim that did not survive.
“Go look at these shirts, feel them, feel their stories. Each year there are more shirts added,” she said.
This fiscal year, Cooper said East Texas Crisis Center has served 595 women, children and men, which is 106 more than last year. There were 136 Texas women killed by a male intimate partner in 2017, according to Cooper. Of those, she said, 65% of perpetrators used a firearm and 15 percent used a knife. 37% of victims had left, were separated or were in the process of leaving when they were murdered by their partner, Cooper added.
“The one thing that all these women who have been killed due to domestic violence have in common is, they never thought the violence would go that far,” Cooper continued. “We are all here to bring awareness, to let people know there is another way to live without the abuse, but it takes all of us working together – spreading the word, spreading the action – to let them know and walk with them down that road. In the end, we possibly could save a life and show them how to break the cycle.”
Henderson County Judge Wade McKinney read a proclamation which county commissioners adopted earlier that day that officially notes October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month countywide.
McKinney quoted the proclamation, which states the issue is challenged by “societal indifference.” The judge added, “That is the enemy. It is something that is disheartening.” McKinney also noted efforts to combat domestic violence. “I’m here to tell you it does help. There are those who are rescued.”
Ed Schauer of Gun Barrel City, chaplain for Crisis Response Ministry, ended the noontime gathering with a solemn invocation. “Continue to touch the caregivers who help the victims in our society,” he prayed.