Domestic violence: ‘There is still work to be done’

Jennifer Ussin, a YWCA ALIVE Shelter advocate, lights a candle in remembrance of someone she knows who has dealt with the pain of domestic violence. - Steven DeDual/staff photo
Jennifer Ussin, a YWCA ALIVE Shelter advocate, lights a candle in remembrance of someone she knows who has dealt with the pain of domestic violence.
— image credit: Steven DeDual/staff photo

YWCA of Kitsap County hosts vigil for victims.

Linda Joyce has worked for years to help those affected by domestic violence get their lives back on track and recover.

As executive director of YWCA of Kitsap County, she and fellow members hosted a domestic violence vigil Tuesday night for those who have been affected by violence to share their stories and receive moral support.

Debbie Brockman, director of the YWCA Alternatives to Living In Violent Environments Shelter, took the floor and spoke about her sister, someone she considers to be a hero. She gave details about a violent relationship her sister endured for a long time before anyone realized there was a problem.

Others shared their own tales of being hit in places where bruises wouldn’t be noticed, like the breasts, or the difference in the attitude of police 20 years ago as it pertained to domestic violence.

Ultimately, they said domestic violence awareness has come a long way in 20 years, especially in Kitsap.

“We truly have a coordinated response to domestic violence in Kitsap County,” Joyce said. “But there is still work to be done. The community must take ownership of the problem. This is not a woman or family problem, it is a community problem.”

Joyce compared this idea to smoking. When communities as a whole stood up against smoking, bans were put in place. She said this is the kind of thing that needs to happen for domestic violence.

Earlier this year, Elyse Umemoto, the second runner-up in the 2008 Miss America competition and winner of the 2007 Miss Washington pageant, came forward and relayed her experience as a domestic violence victim. Umemoto said she was stalked and assaulted by her boyfriend who pleaded guilty last year to charges related to the incident.

Umemoto spoke in Seattle Tuesday in favor of legislation to better protect victims of the worst domestic abusers. She and others are calling for a new law that requires longer prison terms for serious, repeat domestic abusers.

The proposed law, written by the state Attorney General’s Office, died in committee during the 2009 legislative session. Current law grants longer prison terms for repeat car thieves than for repeat domestic abusers. A bipartisan group of legislators has pledged to support a new version of the proposed law when it is introduced in the 2010 session.

“We’re really pleased she has partnered with us,” said Rob McKenna, Washington attorney general. “We are really excited to have her help in getting this legislation passed.”

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