Attention on problem

Domestic violence vigil raises awareness

When the annual Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil happened this past fall, it was a rainy night, and planners didn’t think many folks would show at the Blount County Justice Center.

They were wrong.

“This year it really came home to me. The weather was bad. It was cold and damp, and we really didn’t think many people would come,” District Attorney Mike Flynn said. “It was one of bigger crowds we’ve ever had come out to participate and show their support for victims.”

“We did have a huge turnout this year,” said Monica Aistrop, a credentialed victims advocate specializing in domestic violence.

Flynn said it’s important to stop and recognize there is still a problem with domestic violence in the community.

“There are people who are trying to make a difference in lives of victims. That’s why we recognize police officers each year who work hard to assist victims,” said Flynn. “And we also want victims to realize there are people in the community who really care and want to make things better, and there is help there for them.”

Aistrop said the vigil started around 1997 and Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been going on about 13 years.

During the vigil, the following officers were honored for their work in dealing with domestic violence: Officer Brett Romer with Alcoa Police Department, Officer Matt Caldwell with APD, Officer Laramy Gregory with Maryville Police Department and Detective Jennifer Shudan with Blount County Sheriff’s Office.

Aistrop said it is important to bring the awareness of what is happening in the community with domestic violence. “People need to realize once again it’s not just poor people or lower income people, it happens to all social economic backgrounds,” she said. “I had a victim who was with her father in the courtroom and he said, ‘We don’t belong here.’ Bottom line is, it does happen in all social economic backgrounds, and it’s important young people learn the signs of domestic violence so they don’t just accept it.”

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