HANFORD — The sidewalks in Civic Park were lined with small purple flags Thursday morning, showing the way for those seeking information and help concerning domestic violence.
The 445 flags each represented a case of domestic abuse reported in Kings County in 2017.
“It is powerful when you see all these flags on the lawn, each representing a person,” organizer and Kings County District Attorney’s Office Victim-Witness Assistance Program Coordinator Julia Patino said.
Kings Partnership for Prevention’s annual Rock the Purple Luncheon took place Thursday morning as a way to raise awareness of domestic violence in Kings County and abroad.
“Women and men in these situations can feel very isolated and we want to stress that they’re not alone,” Patino said.
And while the purple flags, the official color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, led the way to the Civic Auditorium, some were unable to make it.
Several person-shaped cut-outs lined the auditorium’s lobby, each one telling the story of a woman or a child who was the victim of a fatal domestic violence attack.
Michelle Drone was murdered by her boyfriend in Lemoore in 2007. Four-year-old Lily Jane Brigance’s parents are currently serving jail time after she was murdered in Lemoore. Bass Lake’s James H. Williamson shot his wife, Sandy and her lawyer in the midst of their divorce in 2011. Fresno woman Xia Vang, 22, was stabbed 101 times by her husband while their 3-year-old son watched in 2016.
These are the types of stories that Rock the Purple organizers want to create awareness of in the hopes that similar crimes can be stopped from happening in the future.
The program is to help victims who may be scared to come forward and report abusive and violent behavior.
“[Domestic abuse] is under-reported,” Patino said. “For every case reported, Lord knows how many go unreported.”
The Kings County Victim-Witness Assistance Program seeks to make the criminal justice system more understandable, accessible and responsive to the concerns of victims and witnesses, according to its website. Patino estimated that about half of the program’s caseload is related to domestic violence.
“There are ways to recover and move on, we just need to talk about it,” she said.
The fourth annual event’s guest speaker, Tina Rodriguez, agreed that communication is the way to curb the violence and break the stigma surrounding these types of crimes that typically happen behind closed doors, in the victims’ own homes.
Rodriguez, a sexual abuse victim, has been working with abusers and victims using a method called restorative justice, not just to punish, but to heal the victim and abuser in the process.
“Forgiveness means I acknowledge that he was sorry. I believe him and I forgive him,” Rodriguez says in her short documentary, “Making Right: From Victim to Survivor through Restorative Justice,” which was screened at the event.
Rodriguez was abused by her step father at a young age, but has since forgiven him and uses her experience to help others — victims and abusers — break the chains of this cycle of abuse.
“I felt like I was never safe,” she said.
After being abused as a child, Rodriguez was aware that her adult relationships had the same abusive qualities of control and manipulation. In her documentary, a convicted abuser admits that he, himself, was abused as a youth, having become aware of the cause-and-effect of abuse.
The event, which was hosted by Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes, featured an invocation by Rev. Suzy Ward of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a lunch served by Kings Coalition for Wellness Awareness.
Those in crisis and seeking help can call the Kings Community Action Crisis Center at 877-727-3225 or the Victim Witness Assistance Program at 852-2640.