Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Victim speaks out to help stop Domestic Violence

"She doesn't have a pulpit, fame or a national spotlight to shine on her pain.
Ladonna Wilkerson and her 4-year-old son, Austin Tyler Hayslip, were victims of domestic violence. They were both shot by the boy's father. Wilkerson survived, but her son did not.

She's one of the real faces of domestic violence. The everyday woman whose smile masks a terrible secret. Hers is chilling. Wilkerson, 34, a Medicaid investigator, and her 4-year-old son, Austin Tyler Hayslip, were shot by the man who asked to marry her.

She lives in agony at home.

Victims of abuse and their advocates are counting on public interest surrounding the alleged attack on national evangelist Juanita Bynum to build momentum for their fight against partner abuse during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is October.

Bynum declared herself to be the new "face of domestic violence" after she was allegedly beaten, choked and stomped to the ground by her estranged husband in August.

Wilkerson says there are many other faces of domestic violence too, who hope their lives will inspire others to recognize abuse and end dangerous relationships.

"Everyone who has been through a situation like that has a story," Wilkerson said. "We have got to do something to stop this."

The Partnership Against Domestic Violence will sponsor two events in the metro area this month to honor the memories of victims who have been hurt or killed by loved ones.

The organization is sponsoring the Silent No More candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site Visitors Center on Auburn Avenue. The names of more than 90 victims and those by-standers caught in the cross-fire of domestic violence will be read.

The partnership also will gather for the Domestic Violence Speak-Out on Oct. 25 in Gwinnett County.

Wilkerson plans to share her chilling testimony at both events, which are free and open to the public. Her son was shot to death Sept. 21, 2004, as he stood outside with his mother at the Dougherty County Pre-K building.

Wilkerson's estranged boyfriend, a police officer who had taken an oath to protect and serve, said he was angry because Wilkerson planned to move to metro Atlanta with their son. He shot his girlfriend, shot her son and then killed himself, police said at the time.

Like Bynum, who filed for divorce in Gwinnett County last week and is moving forward with plans for domestic violence ministry, Wilkerson has found a way to cope with the pain.

She lectures and has developed a nonprofit organization to help other victims move forward with their lives." |Read more|

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