This week, Family Haven of Forsyth County held their 5th annual Purple Purpose Luncheon event in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
At the event, dozens of local sponsors, businesses and organizations gathered at The Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta for an afternoon of food, celebration and awareness of one of the most dangerous issues facing families today.
According to Family Haven, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, 10 percent of high school students reported experiencing physical victimization by a romantic partner in the last year and 25 percent of children are exposed to family violence involving an adult.
They report that Georgia has the ninth-highest rate of women being murdered by men, and domestic violence costs $8.3 billion annually.
According to Family Haven community outreach manager, Amy Barfield, this annual event is a way to remind the community of those hard facts, while celebrating survivors that have been able to break from the cycle of violence.
“We are here to highlight financial abuse and celebrate survivors,” Barfield said.
Barfield explained that of the different types of abuse — physical, emotional, sexual, economic and psychological – often financial, or economic abuse is the hardest to see or show because it is unseen and isolating.
“Sometimes victims will have no access to money, they are unable to work and that’s how they keep them isolated,” Barfield said. “People don’t recognize that as being a form of abuse. But think of a woman who is being abused, who has no means to leave ... it’s very difficult to leave when you have no money and you have nowhere to go.”
She said that by auctioning off high-end purses at the annual event, they bring attention to that “unseen abuse” while raising funds to help their many clients.
After lunch and short presentations from various speakers, Family Haven issued awards to Grace Chapel Church of Christ and The Good Deed Team of Northwest Exterminating, Cumming Police Department, Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation, Northside Hospital Forsyth, and volunteers Cliff Bickell and Ruth Goode.
The keynote speaker at the event, a woman, identified only as Ashli W., also took the stage to share her story as a survivor of domestic violence.
Ashli told the crowd that she was abused by a partner for years and struggled with the choice to come forward and seek help. She said that she was physically and emotionally abused, made to think that she was overreacting and misunderstanding, and when she finally did seek help from the police in her county, her claims were initially brushed aside.
“There was one morning where we were arguing and I told him that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I went to the closet to pack his things,” Ashli said. “He decided to reach for my handgun that I had in my closet for protection and he put the magazine in it, loaded it and pointed it at my face, and I just stood there in shock. I couldn’t believe what was going on and thought, ‘How did it get to this point?’”
She said that eventually she confided in a family member, who helped unravel the situation to get help.
“I knew that I had to tell someone. I wasn’t ready to go to the police, I wasn’t ready to tell my parents and it was hard enough to even tell her, because that meant that it was really happening, it was true,” she said.
Barfield explained Ashli’s situation is exactly what Family Haven is set on helping. By providing victims and their families with a 24-hour crisis line, emergency shelters, transitional housing, outreach programs, legal advocacy, as well as counselling, educational and support services in the North Fulton, Forsyth County area.
“And we do all of that for free,” Barfield said. “Our clients do not pay for our services.”
Family Haven’s crisis line is open to anyone in the community, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 770-887-1121. More information can be found at forsythcountyfamilyhaven.info.