By Alyssa Schnugg
Love shouldn’t hurt. However, in many cases it often kills.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi is asking people in the LOU community to show their support of prevention and awareness by wearing and displaying the color purple.
“Throughout the month of October you may be walking around town and see a purple rock with things like ‘Love Shouldn’t Hurt’ written on them,” said Victim Advocate Mary-Margaret Chaffe. “This will be our way of rocking the awareness. We encourage everyone to make their own rocks or take a rock, but just keep the conversation going.”
Family Crisis Services will have “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” yard signs all throughout Oxford during the month, and First National Bank will be displaying the banner at the beginning of the month. The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce will display the banner the remainder of the month. Also, Neilson’s, Van Atkins and Trustmark Bank will have a large purple ribbon displayed in front of their business, all giving their support to ending domestic violence.
“When you see any of these displays of awareness know it represents the ones who cannot speak for themselves anymore, for the ones that have survived and are spending every day putting their life back together, and for the ones who suffer in silence,” Chaffe said.
COVID-19 increased DV calls
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lafayette County in March, cases of domestic violence have increased.
According to Family Crisis Services, the organization has seen or received calls from more than 24 domestic violence victims since January 2020. The majority of the calls, referrals or walk-ins have been since March of this year.
“Right after the pandemic started, we saw a huge influx of victims needing help and services,” Chaffe said.
Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said the department has responded to 127 domestic violence calls so far this year. In 2019, OPD responded to 106 domestic violence calls.
“We have seen a steady number since April, averaging 14-19 a month,” McCutchen said.
Nationally, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the Center of Disease Control. One in 10 women in the U.S. will be raped by an intimate partner. Approximately 16.9% of women and 8.0% of men will experience sexual violence other than rape by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
Over half of female and male victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner experienced some form of intimate partner violence for the first time before 25 years of age.
Close to home
Oxford and Lafayette County have had several domestic violence incidents where the victims were murdered in the last two years.
Most recently, on Sept. 5, Sherard Ward of Oxford was charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife, Marisha Golden Ward. He is awaiting trial.
In July, Willie Ike Harris shot and killed Jeanette Johnson and her daughter Brianna Johnson before killing himself.
In May 2019, Dominique Clayton was shot and killed in her home while in bed. A former police officer, Matthew Kinne has been charged with her murder and is awaiting trial. The two were allegedly involved in a romantic relationship.
Just a couple of months later, Ole Miss student Alexandria “Ally” Kostial, was found shot to death by Sardis Lake in Harmontown. Fellow student Brandon Theesfeld has been charged with her murder and is awaiting trial. The two had an on and off relationship for years, according to friends.
“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time to remind our community of the hidden acts of violence many women, children and men face daily in their homes; a place they once associated with comfort and love,” Chaffe said. “Wearing purple or a purple ribbon is an easy way to show your support to end domestic violence.”
There are many easy ways to display your purple:
- Attach purple ribbon pins to your shirt, hat, bag, wallet, keys, etc.
- Tie a purple ribbon to your car’s antenna.
- Wear items such as t-shirts, hats and bags that are purple.
- Hang purple ribbons on doors that are frequently used.
- Wrap purple ribbons around highly visible trees and/or lampposts.
Who should you call for help?
If you or someone you know is immediate danger, please call 911
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence – 1-800-898-3234
- Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi – 1-800-9929