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BOWLING GREEN—A victim of domestic abuse described her experiences to officials and citizens during a meeting of the Caroline Alliance Against Violence Taskforce.
Karen Bauserman described how a razor blade was held to her throat. She spoke during a domestic and sexual abuse awareness event titled Caroline County Community Engagement and Sharing: Futures Without Violence.
It was at the Bowling Green Town Hall on Oct. 16 and the event was put together by Estee Newbey-Howard, who is a court advocate and member of the Caroline County Victim/Witness Assistance Program of the Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Her event committee was designed to promote prevention and awareness of domestic and sexual violence.
Among those who attended were Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Diane Abato, Sheriff Tony Lippa, Major Scott Moser, Bowling Green Town Manager Stephen Manster, and Bowling Green Mayor David Storke, as well as various law enforcement personnel and anti-violence advocates.
Before the event began, Abato predicted that the most interesting and engaging speaker of the evening would be Bauserman of Madison, an abuse survivor who had the courage to take the stage and tell her personal account of her struggle in an abusive relationship.
Before going on stage, Bauserman took a few moments to collect her thoughts, deciding just how much of her personal life she would share with a room full of strangers. But when the time came to speak up against violence, she answered that call bravely. Bauserman told the story of an abusive husband, and the signs and “red flags” that she had missed while they were occurring. She recounted how she had eventually had a razor blade held to her throat. She also told the audience how alone she felt as she was going through the emotional and physical abuse.
Bauserman said that the day she decided to take action was the day she learned that she was not alone. She recalled visiting a dressmaker, a hair stylist, and a woman at Food Lion, all in the same day, and all had told her that they too had been victims of abuse. She said that she realized that her story, and that of the other women she had spoken to were “as unique as they were similar.”
Bauserman stated that she “didn’t know there was a way to get help through the county.” But when she spoke to a female law enforcement officer who had also been abused, she realized that “we are all a statistic. We all know someone who has been a victim.” Bauserman was contacted by Newby-Howard, who walked her through the process of getting her life back. “She always kept me as strong in myself as my faith kept me strong,” Bauserman said.
Bauserman told the captive audience how grateful she was to find out that there was a safe place in Ladysmith. “The greatest day of my life was finding out that there were other women like me in this county who had similar issues.”
There were several other speakers who took the podium in support of abuse victims. Julia Jones, a volunteer and member of the event committee, shared a touching poem. Davia Adamek, also a volunteer and abuse event staff member, shared a story about a family member who died as a result of domestic abuse. Cindy Gatewood, director of the victim/witness assistance program, also spoke briefly about the importance of this cause.
Abato also spoke before the crowd, sharing startling statistics as well as a message of hope. Abato began by giving a definition of domestic violence, as presented by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance: “a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one individual intended to exert power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate or family relationship.”
“This is not a family matter,” said Abato. “This is a public health matter, and it is something we can all take a part in. We are all responsible for each other, and as a community we need to help each other.”
Abato shared some statistics concerning violence, which included: 149 million Americans know a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault; one in three Americans know a victim of sexual assault; 54 million Americans report that they have been a victim of domestic violence; and 32 million Americans report that they were a victim of sexual assault.
In 2010, according to Abato, in Virginia there were “almost 62,000 calls to domestic and sexual violence hotlines across the state. At least 166 men, women, and children lost their lives to domestic violence.”
As startling as those statistics are, 70 percent of female domestic violence survivors report having told someone about the abuse. Another 58 percent also said that even after speaking out, no one helped them.
Abato said that in Caroline County, 184 people were helped last year by the county’s victim/witness office. “I think Caroline wants to take care of its own, and that it will do so,” she said, imploring residents to help take a stand and speak out, stating, “Silence is what allows this to continue.”
The Rev. Fields from Mount Zion Baptist Church also came to speak out against this epidemic. Fields said that he had worked with troubled youth, whose abuse had contributed to their criminal behavior and consequential incarceration. Fields stated that he has a “zero tolerance policy for domestic violence.” Fields was an adamant supporter of the need to take a stand against domestic violence and sexual abuse.
After the speakers finished, all of the attendees gathered outside for a balloon launch. The release of the colored balloons into the sky represented the stories of individuals who have been victims of sexual and domestic violence.