The success of the recent production of “The Meaning of Our Tears” has resulted in additional funding to help victims of domestic violence in Stokes County.
Last week, Stokes County Arts Council Director Eddy McGee presented a $2,000 check to Stokes County Violence and Sexual Assault Program Coordinator Jeannie Easter.
“This money will be solely used for victims and victims’ assistance,” said Easter. “We help provide them with gas cards and food cards, and we help them pay power bills and phone bills. We have even helped pay for someone’s insurance.”
She said victims of domestic abuse frequently have to overcome daunting financial hurdles to escape the home they are being abused in.
“Just to get power turned on is about $200,” she said. “Rent starts at $500. To go from two incomes to one, it is very hard for someone trying to escape, and most of our victims have children with them as well.”
McGee said helping to combat the county’s domestic violence problems had been a key goal since the Art’s Council first started talking about doing a play based on the Lawson family murders.
“Domestic violence existed back in the 1920s and it still exists today,” said McGee.”We wanted to give back a portion of what we did to help the people dealing with it today.”
He said he also hoped the play had helped to raise awareness of the issue.
“We had a table set up at every performance with information about domestic violence,” he said. “I think having that there and the connection with the play’s subject matter really helped to promote awareness.”
Easter said it was impossible to draw direct corollaries, but noted that her program had received more calls for help in August than in the previous month.
She added that the donation was about a quarter of what her annual budget to help victims was last year.
“I had a budget of $8,750,” she said. “I spent every bit of it on gas cards, rent or lights for people trying to escape abuse.”
Easter noted that last year her program had helped over 600 clients.
“That number includes children,” she said. “There are over 200 children that are involved in domestic violence in Stokes County.”
To put that in perspective, only five of the county’s 11 elementary schools have student populations larger than 200.
“That is a lot of kids,” said Easter. “We have had more people that are elderly coming about about domestic violence as well. Back in the day you did not talk about this kind of stuff, so breaking that cycle is very hard for a 60-year-old woman for her to come out and talk about it.”
She said domestic abuse can come in a variety of forms, from physical abuse to sexual abuse or stalking.
“Then there is emotional abuse,” she said. ” People don’t realize that emotional abuse can be just as bad as the physical abuse. A bruise heals and goes away, but the emotional abuse of putting you down, and telling you you are worthless and useless and all kinds of bad names, it sticks in your head and you begin to believe them.”
Another form of overlooked abuse, according to Easter, occurs when one member of a family has complete control over fiances.
“That is one of the first steps that an abuser does is to try and control everything,” she said. “Then they can do whatever they want if they have control over all of the finances.”
She said that while most people think of women and children as being the victims of domestic abuse, her office also sees a good number of men who are victims of abusive situations as well.
Regardless of gender or age, Easter said the first step to getting out of an abusive relationship is to find someone you can trust to talk to.
“Finding someone to trust is the biggest thing,” she said, “then, if they need our services, we are here as well.”
The Stokes County Violence and Sexual Assault Program will be hosting a candle light vigil on Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. to remember those who have been lost due to domestic violence, and to recognize domestic violence survivors. The program will feature Honorable William Southern and Sheriff Mike Marshall.
To find out more about the vigil, or to seek help call the Stokes Family Violence Services at 336-593-9323.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.