Community leaders march against domestic violence

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Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) and about 20 supporters marched along Central Avenue in Austin Saturday in opposition of violence against women and domestic abuse.

This is the second year Graham has coordinated a protest-march with residents and community leaders during October, which is domestic-violence awareness month. The march – from Central Avenue and Adams Street to the Austin Town Hall – coincides with a recent string of unsolved robberies and sexual assaults against women on the West Side.

Hermese Bryant, a volunteer in Graham’s office, said the robberies and sexual assaults add to the need for a violence-awareness march in the neighborhood.

“It’s an opportune time,” Bryant said, standing in front of Pleasant Ridge Missionary Baptist Church, 116 S. Central Ave., where the march kicked off.

Paxton Ferencak, 8, attended the march with his mother.

Before the group walked to Austin’s Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., the third-grader Ferencak asked Graham, “Why today are you marching against violence against women?”

“I myself am a victim of domestic violence,” Graham told the boy.

“It’s an issue that plagues our community, so I decided I wanted to raise our voices and bring attention to violence against women.”

State Rep. Camille Lilly, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Cook County Circuit Judge William Boyd and Water Reclamation Commissioner Barbara McGowan, among others, also took part.

Shannon Williams, a representative from New Beginnings Recovery Homes, said he knows of women in some of New Beginnings’ shared homes who have been victims of domestic violence.

“It’s a good thing to represent them and try to make a change,” Williams said during the march, as others chanted, “Stop the violence. Love yourself.”

Police officers escorted the group down Central Avenue and stayed to hear the marchers’ closing remarks at town hall.

Brown said the Cook County circuit court clerk has the responsibility for accepting orders of protection, and “we want people to know that we’ve made it easier.”

“We know that when people are under stress and need to file an order of protection, it’s a traumatic time,” she said.

A domestic violence victim can complete an order of protection application “very easily” online. Before the smart-form, the application process was “daunting,” Brown said.

“We would see women crying because they could not complete those difficult forms.”

In closing remarks, Lilly said women and men have to be vigilant in letting the community know “we cannot and will not stand for violence.”

Lilly, also the vice president of external affairs and development at Loretto Hospital, said it’s “amazing” how many women and children come through Loretto’s emergency room due to domestic violence.

“It impacts our communities and the fabric of our families,” Lilly said.

Click here to view a video and slideshow prepared by our partners at the Austin Weekly News.

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