Centre County declares October Domestic Violence Awareness Month





BELLEFONTE – Each year, more than four million Americans experience domestic violence.

This is one of several alarming statistics centered around domestic violence, which the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (CCWRC) is working hard to stop.

During their Tuesday morning meeting, the Centre County Commissioners proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the county and approved the 2017 STOP Violence Against Women continuation grant application. The grant, which is between the county and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, comes to a total of $145,000, with $125,000 federal funding, $10,000 in funding from State College Borough and $10,000 in county funding.

The STOP grant will enhance local communities’ capacity to develop and strengthen law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women. In addition, the grant will allow for the strengthening of victim services in cases that involve violent crimes against women.

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CCWRC is shifting the focus a little.

“Often when we think about domestic violence, we always focus on the victim and the perpetrator and we don’t always remember other people and animals that may be in the home that are also suffering from domestic violence,” said Dawn McKee, county STOP grant coordinator who works with CCWRC.

The theme for this year’s awareness month will be “Every Family Deserves a Peaceful Home.” McKee said the CCWRC is hoping to raise awareness about the direct link that exists between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. The hope is that if people see child or pet abuse in a home, they recognize it as a red flag that other forms of violence may be taking place in the home.

According to the proclamation, 68 percent of battered women have reported violence toward their animals. Eighty-seven percent of these incidents took place in the presence of the women and 75 percent took place in the presence of the children. When it comes to intentional animal abuse cases, 13 percent were reported to have involved domestic violence.

McKee announced that on next Thursday, Oct. 6, there will be an domestic violence awareness event held at noon in front of the Centre County Courthouse called “Remember My Name: Every Family Deserves a Peaceful Home.” The event will have feature a few guest speakers including Judge Pamela Ruest, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and CCWRC Executive Director Anne Ard.

McKee said that another guest speaker, Jen Spence, a team member from Pet Recovery of Centre County, will speak at the event about what she typically sees when she rescues pets from homes. Also at the event, the courthouse dog Princess will be present, along with one of the canine units from Penn State University Police Services. In addition, a remembrance quilt, made by the mother of a domestic violence homicide victim, will be on display at the event and raffle tickets will be sold to enter a raffle to win the quilt at a later event. McKee said that proceeds from raffle tickets will benefit CCWRC and Crossroads in Clearfield County to help women, children and men who are experiencing violence in local communities.

The remembrance quilt was made by Mary Jane Hollis, whose daughter, Deborah Hollis Harrison, was murdered on June 15, 2014 as the result of domestic violence. Hollis, along with families of two other domestic violence homicide victims who lived in the same neighborhood in Philipsburg, banded together to raise awareness about domestic violence and form the Break the Silence Committee, which is an affiliate of CCWRC and Crossroads in Clearfield County.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, the committee will hold its third annual event, Break the Silence about Domestic Violence Event, where the remembrance quilt will be raffled off and a remembrance walk will take place through the Chester Hill neighborhood, with stops in front of each of the victim’s homes to talk about the women, McKee said. The event will take place from to 3 to 5 p.m. at the Chester Hill Borough Building, located at 920 Walton St. in Philipsburg.