Violent incidents leave community looking for answers

This month from hell, three high-profile sex assault cases in one week left the general public reeling in disbelief. The crimes against women continued with a shooting leaving a woman dead.

This month from hell, three high-profile sex assault cases in one week left the general public reeling in disbelief. The crimes against women continued with a shooting leaving a woman dead.

Weary service workers see aspects of abuse every day of the year. Often longer- term relationship abuse. But also short-term assault. These workers are like the girls with shovels in the Peachfest parade, walking after the horses. Day after day, they clean up the aftermath.

The only positive this month is ordinary citizens coming face to face with the fact sexual assault, in particular, does happen here. One dazed mother described it as “dodging the bullet.” It could have been her daughter in that business that afternoon.

This is as far as I wrote this letter, before reading the latest headline “Woman shot dead.” And here’s the rub. I know the suspect in this latest crime. I know him as a good man. And a woman is dead. No one would disagree the book must be thrown at the perpetrator with the full weight of the law.

Abuse services are very much needed to help those lucky enough to survive (usually women). But abuse services for women are half the answer. Preventative services for men are also needed.

That is if we want a safe community. The question now is what are we going to do about it? Some of you will get more involved in the various local organizations involved in this field. But others may want to take it further, to get creative with our God-given intelligence and get at the root.

One idea is a “Community Summit on Safety” to ask some pointed questions. (What do we want life to be like here? For whom? How will we know we’re successful?) Then roll up our sleeves and create an action plan to improve safety, step by step.

Quick consensus is possible. For example, during a 2008 Family Financial Security Summit in Reno, Nev., police officer Patrick O’Bryan — a firearm holstered at his hip — talked to 100 people from all walks of life.

“Are you comfortable?” He then paused for what felt like forever, looking around the room. Finally, he continued, “Because if you’re comfortable, then nothing will change. To change our community, we need to step outside our comfort zone. So are we willing to be uncomfortable?”

I’m deeply sorry the man I knew is a suspect in the shooting death of his common-law partner. But being sorry won’t bring back the woman who lived with him. Her family now grieve her lost years.

Surely we can do more than just be comfortable that this time we’ve “dodged a bullet.”

Are you willing to be uncomfortable, and to maybe make the people around you uncomfortable? I’m up for it. How about you?

Please, contact me at Together let’s get started.

Donna Henningson





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