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Domestic violence conference turns focus to kids and young adults

Organizers prepare for The New Me, No More Scars Conference in Salem

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SALEM, Va. – Domestic violence takes center stage in the Roanoke Valley this weekend as part of The New Me, No More Scars event in Salem.

One in three women and one in four men will be victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

While anyone is invited to attend the conference, hosted by Ladies of Vision, it's catered to children and young adults. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, women between the ages of 18 to 24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner in the form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse.

"It starts with the young people," says Rachel Harper with Ladies of Vision. "They experience it in the homes, then they grow up and start doing the same thing."

This weekend's guest speaker, Keisha Valentine will share the story of her abusive ex-husband. Police say he tracked her from Richmond to North Carolina in 2016, entered into her home, shot her five times and shot and killed their 15-year-old son.

While not every domestic violence situation escalates to that point, many do. Three or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands each day in the U.S.

The conference will show women in the Roanoke Valley the importance of asking for help.

"I did have this feeling that I was all alone," says Harper. "You're embarrassed, you're in fear all of the time. We want to get that feeling out of the person. We want to let them know they're not alone and we want to let them know there's help out there. All they need to do is just be willing to seek the help."

While more than 17,000 domestic violence crimes are reported to the police in Virginia each year, many more are unreported each day. The goal of this conference is to reach out to as many women, men and children throughout the Roanoke Valley as possible to make them aware of the signs of abuse.

Those signs include mysterious busies or injuries, asking permission to meet, talk or hang out with people, having few close friends and isolation from family.

Organizers with the Ladies of Vision say this is a conference that can benefit the entire community.

"If it's not you, it may be somebody you love, one of your friends, one of your coworkers who will need this information and you may not know what to say," said Sharon London, with Ladies of Vision. "You see the evidence but may not know what to say to that person. We will give you what you need, we'll give you the words to say to help someone make that decision for their lives. It could save someone's life."

How do you know if you may be abusing someone you know or love? Experts say extreme jealousy, controlling your partner's activities, using physical violence to solve problems and not allowing anyone to challenge or question you are all signs you may be the abuser in a domestic violence relationship.

More than a dozen local services and resources for domestic violence victims will be on hand.

For more details on the conference, click here.