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Conference goes ‘Beyond the Bruising’

LaGRANGE — Dozens of folks from around the state descended on West Georgia Technical College on Thursday to hear the stories behind injuries of victims of domestic violence.

“Beyond the Bruising” was a one-day conference hosted by the Troup County Domestic Violence Coalition and state-certified domestic violence shelter Harmony House, a United Way agency.

School and substance abuse counselors, law enforcement officers, family violence intervention providers and people from the local judicial system and faith community learned the shocking statistics behind domestic violence incidents.

The conference included breakout sessions with a variety of experts who showed how the abuse can affect other issues in the community like gang violence, sex trafficking and stalking. The discussions also revealed the impact of domestic violence on children.

“We wanted to focus on different topics and to expand people’s scope of knowledge about domestic violence,” explained Michele Bedingfield, executive director of Harmony House. “We need to share this information because it’s all connected … sex trafficking, gangs, the trauma people experience when they witness domestic violence in their homes as children and how it affects their decisions when they’re older.

“As service providers, we can learn more and meet their (victims’) needs better,” she added.

According to the state’s fatality review, within a five-year period before a victim of domestic violence died:

• 80 percent of victims had contact with law enforcement.

• 38 percent of fatalities reached out to their faith community, such as a pastor or rabbi.

• 16 percent of the victims called a domestic violence shelter before their deaths.

The statistics showed Bedingfield more needed to be done to educate churches, organizations and first responders about the resources available to victims of domestic violence should they reach out for help.

She hopes in turn, the information will empower those victims to seek assistance for guidance on their situation or to leave their abuser.

“I think making people aware of the services that are available to domestic violence victims is something we need to continue to improve,” Bedingfield stated. “People know domestic violence occurs, they just don’t know how to help.”

The Troup County Domestic Violence Coalition hopes to make the “Beyond the Bruising” conference an annual event.

American Home Shield sponsored the conference.

Anyone wanting more information about the services available for victims of domestic violence can contact Harmony House at 706-882-4173.

Anyone needing to get out of an abusive relationship or advice on how to safely leave an abuser can contact the organization’s 24-hour crisis line at 706-885-1525.

Stephanie Woodard, solicitor-general of Hall County, center, holds a speaker so folks can listen to a 911 call made during a domestic violence incident. Woodard taught one of the breakout sessions on 911 responses to those incidents during the Beyond the Bruising conference at West Georgia Technical College on Thursday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_DSC_0062.jpgStephanie Woodard, solicitor-general of Hall County, center, holds a speaker so folks can listen to a 911 call made during a domestic violence incident. Woodard taught one of the breakout sessions on 911 responses to those incidents during the Beyond the Bruising conference at West Georgia Technical College on Thursday. Sherri Brown | Courtesy photo
LaGrange Police Gang Investigator Ray Ham speaks to a crowd about the correlation between gang violence and domestic violence on Thursday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_DV2.jpgLaGrange Police Gang Investigator Ray Ham speaks to a crowd about the correlation between gang violence and domestic violence on Thursday. Melanie Ruberti | Daily News
Mike Mertz, a former law enforcement officer and owner of CM Consulting Services, discusses the dangers of stalking and how domestic violence victims can protect themselves with temporary protective orders and more at West Georgia Technical College on Thursday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_DV3.jpgMike Mertz, a former law enforcement officer and owner of CM Consulting Services, discusses the dangers of stalking and how domestic violence victims can protect themselves with temporary protective orders and more at West Georgia Technical College on Thursday. Melanie Ruberti | Daily News
Dozens learn problems, solutions to domestic violence

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.