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Empty shoes

A steady rain Tuesday night of last week did not stop a small group of people from remembering and honoring the 50 people who suffered and died from domestic violence in Indiana last year. They held a candlelight vigil at the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand on the square in Corydon.
Large life-size silhouettes of a man, woman and child with the names of all the victims plus pairs of shoes placed on the outside edge of the bandstand floor reminded everyone of the cruel paths those people trod on the way to their untimely deaths.
Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd said he wished he didn’t have to talk or even think about such tragic and senseless acts, but violence in the home ‘ including mental, emotional and spiritual violence ‘ is a fact of life, although many people choose to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Offenders routinely make bad choices, over and over. The pattern of violence is often passed on to the children who repeat it in their relationships.
The Harrison County Coordina-ting Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault chooses to do something about the violence. For example, the volunteers who make up the council ‘ members of the legal and medical communities, police officers, counselors, advocates, victims and others ‘ hold the vigil on the town square each fall.
They started Comfort House (previously called the RAPE Treatment Center) in Milltown to treat and examine the victims of sexual assault and children who have been mistreated. They promote training sessions and hold monthly meetings at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon to discuss what can be done to stop or reduce domestic violence and sexual assault in our society. One of its major goals is public education.
Connie Benson, the director of a safe house in Salem sponsored by Hoosier Hills PACT, was the main speaker at the vigil. Her topic was ‘Walk in My Shoes.’
‘Silence helps the perpetrators. That’s why I’m here tonight,’ she said. ‘Domestic violence is widespread.’ It’s found in all areas, ages, professions and socio-economic classes.
In a cruel irony, domestic violence often starts when a couple should be happiest ‘ when the woman is pregnant. However, all the attention she gets is too much for a jealous, threatened man who demands the attention and wants to control his wife. One place where injuries often occur is the pregnant woman’s abdomen, Benson said.
In 1990, the No. 1 cause of birth defects was physical abuse, the March of Dimes said. Children are often hurt while cradled in their mother’s arms, Benson said. When police are called to a ‘domestic,’ in most cases the children of the household are in hiding, usually under a bed or in a closet. That’s where they routinely go when the father starts beating on the wife or girlfriend.
The effects of violence on children are often visible and long-term: nightmares and other sleep disorders, bed-wetting, depression, withdrawal. Another possible effect is over-achievement in schoolwork because the child wants to keep his or her mind off the carnage at home, but the reverse is also true: some kids are so traumatized they can’t possibly do well in school.
Teachers are trained and strongly encouraged to watch out for signs of domestic violence amongst their students. Teenagers often act out their frustration by bullying others or through juvenile delinquency, an abusive pattern of ‘getting their way’ which they have learned from their unwitting fathers.
Benson said the vast majority of juvenile males in prison for murder are there because they killed their mother’s abusers.
The coordinating council presented Alisa Burch of the Harrison County Public Library with a collection of books dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault and building healthy relationships.
Andrea Puckett, 20, Corydon, a senior at Indiana University Southeast, sang Faith Hill’s ‘There You’ll Be,’ and Michael Chanley, children’s minister at Lincoln Hills Christian Church led the group in prayer.