The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

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October 13, 2007

SAAFE House’s ‘In Their Shoes’ focuses on domestic violence

The trees at the Walker County Courthouse have more than just leaves hanging from their limbs this month — 126 pairs of shoes.

The shoes represent the number of people killed in Texas last year as a result of domestic violence.

“In Their Shoes,” sponsored by the SAAFE House in Huntsville, is a project highlighting October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Abby McFarland, special events coordinator, said domestic violence is a problem occurring behind closed doors in every community.

“A person may never have a bruise on their body, yet they could still be a victim of domestic abuse,” McFarland said. “Abuse can be emotional, verbal, financial, sexual or physical.”

According to SAAFE House, not only were 120 women and six children killed last year as a result of domestic violence but 77 children lost a parent.

Also, 186,868 domestic violence incidents were reported across the state of Texas — some of those occurring in Walker County neighborhoods and homes.

“Citizens of our county are not immune to the often silent epidemic of domestic violence that is plaguing our nation,” McFarland said. “One of the most common misconceptions is that domestic violence only happens between husbands and wives.

“The truth is that it’s happening between all family types — siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates — and no age group is safe.”

McFarland said SAAFE House — Sexual Assault and Abuse Free Environment — is dedicated to bringing this problem out of the shadows of our homes and into the spotlight.

“To do this, we need the help of every member of the community,” McFarland said. “The first step in making a difference is to acknowledge the problem. This can be as simple as asking a co-worker about repeat bruises ... and let them know that they do have options.”

Another way of helping and getting involved is to volunteer, McFarland said.

Throughout October, SAAFE House will be holding a variety of community events in an effort to raise awareness.

“If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAAFE House 24-hour hotline at (936) 291-3369,” McFarland said.

All services are free and confidential.

For more information about becoming a volunteer, call the SAAFE House office at (936) 291-3529 or visit www.saafehouse.org.

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