First, the dark side: Holly Comer, the CEO and executive director of the Northwest YMCA, tells me that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a big issue for the organization — and it should be. According to statistics, one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime and one in six will suffer sexual assaults. 835 adults and children have been killed in domestic violence incidents in the state since 2003. These are stunning factoids and proof that I need to get out more.
In my long life, I have never known anyone in my family, including aunts, uncles, or cousins that ever committed domestic violence — and I had some pretty weird relatives, including one uncle who was a street corner preacher when he was drunk and a painter when he was sober. He preached more than he painted.
The YWCA of Northwest Georgia, which has been around for 92 years, opened the first domestic violence shelter in the state and partners with the Cobb district attorney’s office and law enforcement agencies as well as WellStar Health System to provide services to victims of sexual assault over the age of 13 in Cobb, Cherokee and Paulding counties. Their 24-hour crisis line is (770) 427-3390.
Kimberly McCoy, director of the victim witness unit in Cobb District Attorney Pat Head’s office, says, “The district attorney’s office has for many years enjoyed a good working relationship with the YWCA. Our work to provide support and notification services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault during their time in the criminal justice system is strengthened by the work of the YWCA. Victims often heal from the trauma of victimization much quicker and more effectively by such comprehensive, collaborative relationships with partnering agencies that can work together to ensure that a victims needs are holistically being met.”
On Oct. 27 the YWCA, along with the district attorney’s office, the solicitor general’s office and the Marietta-Roswell alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., will hold a candlelight vigil in Glover Park from 6-7:30 p.m. in remembrance of those who lost their lives in 2010 to domestic violence.
McCoy says, “The Awareness Vigil is yet another way to partner to bring awareness, education and involvement to the community to further our services and responses. Further, such awareness events honor those who have been victimized.”
Of the 81 lives lost in 2010 due to domestic violence, four were in Cobb County. The oldest was 64 and the youngest was 1 year old. That is heart-breaking and I hope by shining some light on the worst of our humanity the candlelight vigil can somehow break this vicious cycle. …
Now, the good side: We will know today whether or not Lily von Schmeling was selected last night to serve on the 2011 Homecoming Court at Kennesaw Mountain High School. She was nominated earlier this week by her classmates. Whatever the outcome, Lily, an 11th grader at KMHS with Down syndrome, is already a winner, as are the young people at Kennesaw Mountain that nominated her. What a great story.
Lily’s mother, Lori von Schmeling, told the MDJ’s Lindsay Field, “The whole experience has just been wonderful. We’ve all been overjoyed and humbled by it. We really attribute it to her fantastic classmates.”
That list includes Sydney Wood, president of the school’s Interact Club and a friend of Lily’s since second grade, who led the effort to nominate her for the Homecoming Court.
For those of you out there who think young people are going to the dogs (the prevailing attitude of every older generation since Eve took a bite out of the apple) and that our “pitiful government schools” are going with them, may the young people at Kennesaw Mountain High School serve as a reminder that just the opposite is true. We have good kids in Cobb County and good public schools and they are learning more than their ABCs. They are learning that we are all equal in God’s sight and they are setting an example the rest of us would be well-served to follow.
In the candlelight vigil, we grieve at man’s inhumanity to man and in the case of the Interact Club and the young people and teachers at Kennesaw Mountain, we celebrate the better part of human nature. Two starkly different situations — one tragic, one uplifting — but both inexorably linked together because people care about other people and are willing to do something about it.
I am sure these kinds of things happen in other places to one degree or another, but I am proud that they happen in Cobb County.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.