It was her first day of grade school, but all Kimberly Bitzer can remember is her father’s hands and her mother’s face.
“When other children were excited about the first day, I was berated by my father,” she said. “Before I got on the bus, he told me what a selfish little b---- I was, as he proceeded to physically hit me around the room. I remember my mother’s face, paralyzed and fearful of him.
“As quickly as he hit me, he then scurried me off to the bus. As I got on the bus, my best friend asked, ‘Why is your face so red?’ I said nothing. You see, in my day and time, no one talked about family violence. I just held my head down in shame.”
On Saturday, Bitzer shared her story with a group of about 75 attendees at Forsyth County Family Haven’s inaugural Purple Paisley luncheon, a fundraiser for the domestic violence advocacy organization.
The event, which raised about $5,000 for Family Haven’s children’s program, THRIVE, was held May 6 at Ippolito’s Neighborhood Italian restaurant on Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell.
Bitzer served as the keynote speaker, reminding attendees that children, too, are often victims of domestic violence.
“Childhood Domestic Violence [CDV] isn’t uncommon at all,” said Shandra Dawkins, executive director of Forsyth County Family Haven.
“National statistics reflect that less than 15 percent of childhood domestic violence is recognized in our society.
“Childhood Domestic Violence is when a person grows up living in a home with domestic violence. The impact can be profound and last throughout adulthood.”
According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, a leading nonprofit “dedicated exclusively to helping those who experienced CVD,” 5 million children witness domestic violence each year in the United States, with 40 million adult Americans growing up living with abuse.
Statistics show, the association says, that those who grow up in a household with domestic violence are six times more likely to take their own lives and 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
They are also 74 percent more likely to commit a violent crime against someone else and three times more likely to repeat the cycle of abuse in adulthood.
But program’s like Family Haven’s THRIVE initiative can help, Dawkins said.
The program gives children a “safe place to receive supportive services, such as therapeutic counseling, interactive play therapy, support groups, family counseling and an array of children-related activities.”
In 2016, the program 111 women and children and Dawkins said she hopes this year’s will reach even more.
For more information about Forsyth County Family Haven, visit forsythcountyfamilyhaven.info/.