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Rally at City Hall remembers victims of domestic violence

A moment of silence was observed outside City Hall on Monday afternoon as service providers and government leaders came together to remember victims who lost their lives to domestic violence.

“One in four women are abused in their lifetime,” said Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds, coordinator of Crisis Services Advocate Program. “Three women are murdered every day at the hands of their abuser. Every minute, 20 people are victims of intimate partner violence.”

Wiktorski-Reynolds was joined on the steps of City Hall by a dozen speakers, including Brienna Hill, shelter director for Child and Family Services’ Haven House; Brooke Densing of the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence; Mary Travers Murphy of the Family Justice Center; Mayor Byron W. Brown; County Executive Mark Poloncarz; Scott M. Joslyn, chief of Police Services for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office; and State Sen. Mark Grisanti.

“We might be the front line that shows up at the middle of the night, but that’s only the first step,” said Joslyn. “We won’t forget about you.”

Murphy, whose Family Justice Center recently opened two satellite offices in Williamsville and Orchard Park, had a message for men and women suffering behind closed doors: “We have your backs,” she said.

Behind the speakers was a clothesline full of multicolored T-shirts, with messages from survivors of abuse who demanded an end to the violence.

Environmental scientist Peg Simons introduced herself as a victim of domestic violence.

“In our world of preconceived notions, I am the last person you would think would find themselves in a domestic violence relationship, but I was and I stayed for almost 10 years,” said Simons, who stressed the need to speak compassionately to victims.

“We need to move from where we are now – questioning the victim with, ‘Why do you stay?’ – to speaking to the victim with compassion telling her, ‘You don’t deserve this.’

“Tell her once for every time she hears at home that: If she had just done what she was supposed to do. If she had not spoken the way she had. If she did not say hello to that male friend of hers. If she would have just been on time.

“She would have not brought those fists down on her. She would never have been slapped. She would never have had obscenities screamed at her. She would never have her favorite things broken. She would never be kicked.

“The whole time domestic violence happens,” Simons said, “the victim is told it is her fault. We will not move forward until we stop questioning the victims and start challenging the abuser with the most important question of all: ‘Why don’t you just stop?’ ”

If you are a victim of domestic violence, or if you suspect a friend or relative is suffering from abuse, there is a 24-hour hotline at Crisis Services: 834-3131.