Opinion Columns & Blogs

Julie A. Burkhart: Combat domestic violence

Fifteen years ago this month, I lost my stepsister and my friend, Dana Anderson. I’d known her since she was 3 years old and enjoyed 26 years as her stepsister. Dana was murdered in her home by her partner, leaving her 12-year-old son without a mother. It was a devastating loss for all who knew her.

It’s a tragedy that no sister, mother, father, brother or friend should ever have to face. And yet we know that far too many families have suffered just like mine.

This was overwhelmingly clear in “An unacceptable tragedy” (Aug. 20 Eagle Editorial). My heart breaks for the victims of such senseless tragedies that continue to plague our communities.

In recent years domestic violence homicide, as a proportion of all homicide, has been at or above 24 percent in Kansas. In 2008, the same number was about 14 percent. This trajectory is disturbing and unacceptable – just one of the many horrific statistics from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s Domestic Violence, Stalking and Rape in Kansas report.

Furthermore, organizations committed to helping individuals and their families leave violent situations report they are overwhelmed with requests and cannot meet demand. We need both prevention and response programs and resources to solve this growing problem.

To this day, I find myself asking, “What if?” and “Why didn’t we know?” For reasons I’ll never truly know, Dana felt she couldn’t disclose her abuse to those of us in her family, though we would have done anything to help.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a time when individuals and organizations throughout the country will gather to fight back. To specifically raise awareness about domestic violence in the Wichita community, there are two events scheduled so far in which citizens can participate:

▪  The Purple Mile Walk, 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 3, Wichita State University campus.

▪  Stop Violence Against Women March and Rally, 1 p.m. Oct. 11, Exploration Place Festival Plaza. You can also find the event on the web at www.ictacts.org.

I hope you’ll join me in honor of my sister and the countless other individuals whose lives have been touched by domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call the Kansas Crisis Hotline at 1-888-363-2287.

Julie A. Burkhart lives in Wichita.

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