Laurel House helps break silence on domestic abuse
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 attendees 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.
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.