Hundreds walk to fight against domestic violence

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JEFFERSON CITY – Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Jefferson City on Tuesday evening to advocate for change and awareness of domestic violence.

Missouri’s Rape and Abuse Crisis Service hosted a walk around the city as a way to “end silence and promote hope, help and healing” for victims.

Alden Henrickson, executive director of the group, called the entire event “somber.”

Henrickson and many others spent Tuesday morning hanging 40 purple silhouettes around downtown. Each one has a story from a victim of sexual assault or domestic abuse. 

One read: “My husband and I had been living in California. He was physically abusive. I left and came to Missouri. He found me here. He beat me up. He hit me in the fact breaking my classes and giving me a black eye. While at the emergency room I called for shelter." 

Henrickson said the silhouettes are used to show what victims have gone through and he said the fact that everybody is walking “is a testament that they recognize these people’s problems.”

Rape and Abuse Crisis Service provided high heels for people to wear, simulating walking a mile in someone's shoes.

“The idea is that you can only understand the problem if you spend time in their shoes,” Henrickson said. “That’s why it got into high heels for the guys, and so the idea is, even though it’s a problem created by men, they need to be aware of what a woman is going through in this kind of a situation.”

According to Henrickson, the group has 30 beds in its shelter. In 2017, the shelter was 60 percent full everyday of the year. He said, in 2018, it has been “pretty much the same.” 

He said a huge problem is how many children are victims of violence. In 2017, more than a third of the people staying at the shelter were children.

“They have done nothing at all to be in the situations they are in,” Henrickson said. “We try to normalize their lives as much as possible so all this helps towards that.”

Numerous community members and organizations, including student groups, came out to take part in the walk. 

Shelly Gudehus, a nurse practitioner at Capital Region Medical Center, said she walked because of the number of assaults in Missouri.

“I think it’s important to support those people as much as we can,” Gudehus said. “You never know when it may happen to you.” 

People needing help from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service can go to its website or call 573-634-4911

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