Female Factor focuses on empowerment

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The month of April is a time of empowerment when it comes to educating people about two horrific crimes. April is both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

That’s why the usually lighthearted Female Factor took a more somber turn for Wednesday’s gathering.

“It is taboo to talk about,” said Camille Downing, director of the Pike Regional Child Advocacy Center. “But guess what? It is happening right here in Pike County. Children are being physically, sexually and emotionally abused.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Downing said there were 124 reports of neglect and child abuse in Pike County last year and the CAC investigated 115 of those reports.

Downing spoke to the Female Factor guests about the services the CAC provides, including taped forensic interviews so that children don’t have to appear in court, crisis counseling for children and families, and a clothing closet for adults to help prepare parents for job interviews.

“There were one million reported cases of child abuse nationwide last year,” Downing said. “One is too many and we can do our part to prevent this from happening here in our home.”

While women who may have never been in an abusive relationship might wonder why a woman doesn’t simply leave a partner or spouse, Karen Boyd with the House of Ruth in Dothan told the ladies at the luncheon leaving sometimes isn’t that easy. There are children involved and threats of violence.

But the House of Ruth is here to help area women and children who need immediate shelter.

“I need to get out. That is all you have to say,” Boyd said. “We can arrange for safe transport.”

The House of Ruth is a protected shelter in an unpublicized location that helps women and their children begin to emotionally and physically deal with leaving a dangerous situation.

“Many altercations don’t start until 2 or 3 o’clock,” Boyd said. “So we are there at any time. We are open 24 hours.”

Boyd shared that more than 4,500 victims had been helped by the House of Ruth last year and that some of those were from Pike County. Boyd shared one woman from Troy had even been held hostage in her home for days before she could get help.

“Domestic violence is about power and control,” Boyd said, noting that every nine seconds someone is the victim of domestic violence and every four days someone is killed. “Those are scars that last a lifetime.”

The ways to empower women being shared at Female Factor hit home for Assistant District Attorney Scherryl Harrison who shared with the ladies that she, too, had been in a relationship involving domestic violence.

“What we think of as love often times is not love,” Harrison said. “Love doesn’t hurt. Love is not something that is going to get you into trouble or embarrass you.”

Harrison said she was already a prosecutor and had worked on several domestic violence cases before she realized she was in an unhealthy marriage. Harrison said that educating sons and daughters about the signs of domestic abuse and how to get help is paramount in today’s world.

“Every problem we have cannot be solved with a criminal charge,” Harrison said. “It’s not as easy or as simple as that. I didn’t know I was being abused. I just thought, ‘I’ve got to be a better wife. I’ve got to be a better mother.’”

When she realized she was a victim of abuse, Harrison said she vowed to help women in similar situations. Now, as ADA, the majority of cases she prosecutes have women and child victims.

“We’ve got to start here, helping each other,” Harrison said.

Instead of a token of appreciation for participating as a speaker at Female Factor, donations were made by the Female Factor group to the CAC, House of Ruth and the Boys & Girls Club of Pike and Surrounding Counties.

For more information about the CAC, call (334) 670-0487 or visit pikeregionalcac.com. For information about the House of Ruth, call (334) 793-2232 or visit houseofruthdothan.org.