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Light shed on issue of domestic violence

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By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - For victims of domestic violence, there is always a flicker of hope that life can be better.

Light is continuously shed by the Center for Women and Families, an organization dedicated to eradicating domestic violence and abuse situations through assistance and educational programs.

Every year CWF hosts a candlelight vigil in honor of domestic violence victims at the Bullitt County Courthouse. The vigil takes place in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This year's event featured guest speaker Jerry Nugent, who works with the Bullitt County Sheriffs Office in offering assistance to domestic violence victims reported by the department.

Nugent became a domestic violence awareness advocate following the death of his daughter, Kimberly, who was 22 when she was murdered by her husband.

"She was five weeks from her college degree," Nugent said. "It took two trials and we went to the Kentucky Supreme Court to get a conviction. From that helplessness comes hope."

Nugent's hope manifested into his current status as a Sheriffs' Office volunteer, contacting victims to offer encouragement.

"I answer questions, or I just talk to them," he said. "We're seeing the same names again and again. They can't break that cycle, or they can't seek help to get away from it."

Nugent stressed talking to anyone who could be a potential domestic violence victim, adding that any hope helps.

"If you ever suspect someone.. reach out to that person," he said. "Making an attempt to talk could save a life. My daughter didn't have that chance."

Marguerite Thomas, CWF director of outreach, noted that most people are generally up for assisting with lots of causes, such as breast cancer awareness benefits. She said domestic violence doesn't garner the same attention as other causes.

"I don't see why people don't see domestic violence as a big of a danger as cancer," she said. "It can affect anyone. Like cancer, it doesn't discriminate against age, race or religion."

Thomas added that other causes need billions of dollars to continue their efforts; in comparison, domestic violence can be be curtailed through simple intervention and educational awareness.

"You don't have to break up a fight," she said. "You can talk on t he side, show concern, and help them get help."

Thomas said CWF hopes to get more men throughout the community involved in their program, noting that women are not always the victims.

"It's not just a woman's issue," she said. "We need to get men involved, along with children through education."

Thomas noted that CWF education programs are available, but the organization is limited to four educators.

"There's just not enough to just go to all the schools," she said. "We need to teach the teachers how to be sensitive and how to deal with domestic violence issues."

Thomas mentioned the Green Dot Program, currently implemented at four pilot schools throughout the state. According to Thomas, Green Dot teaches bystander intervention strategies.

CWF is also involved in Bullitt County with Shepherd's Shelter, a program that offers assistance to homeless families. Thomas said Shepherd's Shelter helps supply transitional housing for domestic violence victims and families.

Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts thanked everyone who attended the vigil.

"It was a very beneficial event," she said. "I appreciate what (Nugent) is doing and I hope we can get more sheriffs and police on board."

The CWF Bullitt County branch features a a community advisory committee that meets each month. Anyone wishing to participate, or for more information on CWF, should call 538-0212 or visit www.thecenteronline.org.