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Feature | Oct. 15, 2013

Domestic violence awareness: Speaking for those who no longer can

By Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

He shot her first from the porch as she ran towards the car to alert her daughter to get away.

She fell to the ground. He held the barrel of the gun to her back and pulled the trigger a second time.

On July 15, 2006, three days before her 46th birthday, Sharon Cuffee Murphy lost her life and became a casualty of domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Sharon's sister, Lynette Lee, retired U.S. Army Soldier and Military Rape Crisis Center volunteer, is reminded again of the day that changed her family forever.

For Sharon, the hardest wounds to treat were those unseen, said Lee. Hiding her marital problems, keeping secrets of abuse and confiding only in those who promised to never tell only escalated the danger of her relationship.

"Once I found out about the abuse, I asked her to come live with me, but she was too afraid to leave," said Lee. "Sharon would always say he was trying to change. She couldn't imagine someone she loved wanting to hurt her."

Sharon eventually decided to leave her husband, but matters became much worse. His threats, aggravated by their separation, became more hostile and ominous towards Sharon and her two children, and when he took matters into his own hands on that July day, it resulted in Sharon's death.

Lee paused and took a deep breath, as if carefully considering her words before she continued to recall the memory of her sister.

"I know now she doesn't have to fear anymore, but it should have never happened like this," said Lee. "Sharon is the main reason I volunteer. I want people to know about my sister to make sure she didn't die in vain."

Unfortunately, Sharon's story is not a rare one. According to the National Institute of Justice, every day three women die at the hands of their significant other. According to Domesticviolencestatistics.org, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury for women, more than rape, car accidents and muggings combined.

Throughout the month of October, the Silent Witness Program joined forces with Joint Base Langley-Eustis Family Advocacy Program to commemorate the lives lost as a result of domestic abuse. They will be honoring victims, such as Sharon, with life size silhouettes carved into red-wooden figures on display throughout Langley Air Force Base.

In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Family Advocacy program also hosted a three-part Healthy Relationships class which focused on positive conflict management and communication skills to help strengthen bonds between couples.

"Relationships, like many endeavors, require skills and knowledge," said Barbara Bothwell, Family Advocacy outreach manager. "The Family Advocacy Program provides education and support to prevent domestic abuse and violence by encouraging prompt reporting of suspected abuse and promoting victim safety."

The Family Advocacy Program works to prevent family violence through public awareness campaigns, leadership training and community education. Bothwell said that some characteristics to look out for in unhealthy relationships are control, dishonesty, violence, emotional abuse and disrespect.

Although a life was lost, the pleas for help do not have to go unnoticed. By sharing Sharon's story and offering programs, the cries of domestic abuse victims do not have to go unheard, said Lee.

"If I could go back to help my sister, I would," said Lee. "All I can do now is raise awareness so what happened to Sharon does not happen to anyone else."

For more information about family advocacy or a list of available resources, call the Langley Family Advocacy Program office at 764-2427 or the Fort Eustis office at 878-0807.