Non­profit con­fronts do­mes­tic abuse

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­ian Den­nis mden­nis@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

WHITEMARSH >> “I can see how life can be aw­ful and awe­some in the ex­act same mo­ment and look with undy­ing hope be­cause as dif­fi­cult as life may be now, it is bet­ter than any day I spent with my abuser.”

Those were just a few of the words spo­ken by do­mes­tic abuse survivor Jill Myhre to a crowd of over 100 peo­ple Wed­nes­day at Lau­rel House’s Break­ing the Si­lence event.

The lun­cheon, which was held at Green Val­ley Coun­try Club, served as a somber re­minder of the preva­lence of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and the com­mu­nity it takes to re­build the lives af­fected by it.

Lau­rel House, which works with vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in a va­ri­ety of as­pects, holds their Break­ing the Si­lence lun­cheon an­nu­ally to give up­dates on leg­isla­tive and law en­force­ment changes that are tak­ing place to help vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The group opened its doors in 1980 to pro­vide a hot­line and emer­gency shel­ter for vic­tims. Since then it has grown into a com­pre­hen­sive net­work that as­sists vic­tims with sup­port and pre­ven­ta­tive ser­vices through­out the county.

At the lun­cheon Wed­nes­day, guest speak­ers Dr. Colleen Lelli, Cabrini Col­lege’s Jor­dan Cen­ter; State Rep. Bren­don Boyle; Sen. Bob Men­sch; Stradley Ro­nan Stevens & Young At­tor­ney Kristin Fe­den and Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin R. Steele ad­dressed at­ten­dees about the sober­ing statis­tics and cur­rent leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing the is­sue of do­mes­tic abuse in Mont­gomery County and be­yond.

“We have a piece of leg­is­la­tion that has been work­ing through the process for some time and this past Tues­day the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee passed it unan­i­mously. So we ex­pect it will get fi­nal con­sid­er­a­tion in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Tues­day and will go right to the gover­nor and be signed law,” said Men­sch.

“It has to do with abuse in front of a child. We know there is a num­ber of statis­tics to­day that when chil­dren wit­ness phys­i­cal, ver­bal or emo­tional abuse, they are af­fected. There of­ten cre­ates a trauma that lasts a life­time,” said Men­sch.

Men­sch ex­plained that the bill would in­crease the pos­si­bil­ity of pros­e­cu­tion for a par­ent who com­mits abuse in front of a child.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin Steele added that leg­is­la­tion re­lated to gun own­er­ship by a per­son con­victed of do­mes­tic abuse or with a pro­tec­tion from abuse or­der is also on the ta­ble. Steele said the leg­is­la­tion would re­quire any­one with a PFA or do­mes­tic abuse con­vic­tion to sur­ren­der any firearms to law en­force­ment within 24 hours. Steele noted the im­por­tance such leg­is­la­tion and oth­ers like it be­fore bring­ing up what he called “sober­ing” statis­tics about the prob­lem of do­mes­tic abuse in the county.

“I took a hard look at what we face so far this year in Mont­gomery County and it’s not good,” said Steele. “Sadly we’ve seen a sig­nif­i­cant jump in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or re­la­tion­ship vi­o­lence homi­cides. We’ve had 18 homi­cides oc­cur in Mont­gomery County so far this year. Eight of those mur­ders, or 45 per­cent, were at the hands of a fam­ily mem­ber, in­ti­mate part­ner or for­mer in­ti­mate part­ner.”

Steele went on to re­cite the names and cir­cum­stances of in­di­vid­u­als killed as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in Mont­gomery County. Among them were vic­tims from Norristown, Pottstown, Chel­tenham, Am­bler, Up­per Gwynedd, Lans­dale and Whitemarsh.

Those in at­ten­dance also had the chance to hear from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence survivor Jill Myhre, who re­counted some of the trau­ma­tiz­ing cir­cum­stances she and her chil­dren en­dured at the hands of her abuser.

“My daily life by 2016 had be­come work­ing full time, man­ag­ing ev­ery­thing in the house from cook­ing and clean­ing to bills and taxes, help­ing the chil­dren, who were now home schooled, all while be­ing beaten daily. Putting on makeup while driv­ing to work so I could wipe away tears and blood that had be­come part of the break­fast rou­tine when some­thing wasn’t quite up to par by ex­actly 6:45.”

Her abuser was sen­tenced to 20 to 40 years in prison last year.

Myhre also spoke to at-

ten­dees about the role Lau­rel House played in help­ing her leave. She thanked the or­ga­ni­za­tion for their help and ended with a hope­ful mes­sage:

“Please help yet one more per­son be a light aris­ing out of dark­ness, that the dark­ness may not over­come them. The light of hope will have a pay­back that you can­not yet wrap your minds around. A pow­er­ful woman with re­siliency and hope will change the world, so I ask please don’t just break the si­lence. Bring about shouts of joy from kids who can laugh again and con­ta­gious smiles from count­less do­mes­tic vi­o­lence war­riors,” said Myhre.

Help, sup­port and in­for­ma­tion are avail­able to any­one through Lau­rel House’s con­fi­den­tial, 24-hour hot­line at 1-800-642-3150.

To learn more about Lau­rel House visit lau­rel-house. org.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

At­ten­dees ap­plauded af­ter hear­ing from Jill Myhre about her sur­vival of do­mes­tic abuse and her ex­pe­ri­ence with Lau­rel House.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

At­ten­dees at Wed­nes­day’s Break the Si­lence lun­cheon take a look at a set ta­ble ded­i­cated to vic­tims lost to do­mes­tic abuse. The event, hosted by Lau­rel House is held an­nu­ally.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin Steele speaks at Lau­rel House’s Break the Si­lence lun­cheon.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Jill Myhre, a do­mes­tic abuse survivor, speaks to over 100 peo­ple Wed­nes­day about her ex­pe­ri­ence with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and the help she re­ceived from Lau­rel House.

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