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Advocates say merely acknowledging domestic violence saves lives

Advocates say merely acknowledging domestic violence saves lives

Organizers at a rally in Walla Walla say it's time to talk about domestic violence and they're taking steps, literally, to spread the word.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says one-in-four American women experiences domestic violence, but on Wednesday advocates took to the streets hoping to bring the subject out of the darkness.

Victim advocate Anne-Marie Zell-Schwerin's left eye is black and blue.

She said an accident caused the bruising, but instead of hiding it she's letting it start important conversations.

"One young woman came up to me and said, 'Are you safe? Can I help you?'" she sighed.

Zell-Schwerin is executive director of YWCA in Walla Walla.

She said she's noticed people look at the bruise, but immediately look away because they assume she's abused but don't want to ask.

Now, she and her bruise are planning to change that, one awkward conversation at a time.

"It's awkward," she explained. "But I felt less-awkward when they reached out to me than when people looked at me and then looked at the floor and didn't say anything."

Zell-Schwerin says domestic violence (sometimes called intimate partner violence) is something people need to talk about.

No one knows that better than Don Estes from Kennewick.

He says his niece, Tina Stewart, was killed on Thanksgiving by her abusive partner.

Later, Estes was shocked to find out his niece's killer had a history of domestic violence.

"It, excuse me, took my breath away," he said through tears. "I asked myself, "Why doesn't anyone know about this?'"

Within weeks of losing his niece, the Kennewick father was asking the Washington State legislature that very same question, pushing for a national registry following people who hurt other people.

RELATED STORY: Kennewick man works to create domestic violence registry with "Tina's Bill"

It's called Tina's Law and he says it will save lives.

"Because domestic violence isn't getting any better," he said. "Do it before it's your loved one."

A fitting tribute for a tragic loss.

"Passing laws, saving lives. That's what I want her legacy to be," Estes said.

Zell-Schwerin says a few of the reactions to her black eye give her hope.

"I'm a realist," she said. "I know domestic violence wont be over by the time I retire."

Which is why she says she plans to keep marching.

Both advocates say they're supporting long-term solutions, and they're looking for help.

Ways to get involved:

  • Contact: Urge legislators to co-sponsor H.R. 6545, the Violence Against Women Re-authorization Act (VAWA)
  • Read: "Tina's Law" at #TEAMTINA-BreakTheSilence on Facebook.
  • Share: Estes is collecting survivor's stories for politicians in Olympia when Tina's Law is introduced next session; contact Don Estes on Facebook.





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