Peace Walk puts focus on elder abuse

Pictured, community members march down South Main Street during Thursday’s Peace Walk in downtown Waterloo. (Spencer Michelson photo)

Community members supported domestic violence awareness by participating in the Violence Prevention Center’s Peace Walk this past Thursday in Waterloo.

Supporters met at St. Paul United Church of Christ and Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church and converged at the intersection of South Main Street and West Mill Street.

They proceeded down South Main Street to the Monroe County Courthouse bandstand.

The group of marchers then listened to community leaders and speakers discuss domestic violence.

At the bandstand, red silhouettes decorated the area, each one representing a person murdered from domestic violence in the community.

There were also T-shirts hanging near the bandstand with artwork. They were made by survivors of domestic abuse as a way of healing.

“I think it was really nice. I wish there had been more people to attend,” Violence Prevention Center executive director Darlene Jones said. “The hope is that each year it will get a little bit bigger.”

This was the third year of the walk. Last year, it was held in Hecker.

Following the walk, Monroe County Circuit Clerk Sandy Sauget served as master of ceremonies by introducing each speaker.

Jones started the night by welcoming the community.

“We are here tonight to honor those individuals that have been murdered through domestic violence,” Jones said. “We’re here to recognize the survivors of domestic violence and we’re here to provide education and awareness to the community.”

Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith followed by declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Hometown Harmony sang “Amazing Grace” during the presentation as well as “Let There Be Peace” while balloons were released at the end.

This year’s guest speaker, Tamar Stancil of AgeSmart, focused on elder abuse. AgeSmart is a not-for-profit organization that provides programs and services to people 60 years and older.

For example, they help provide meals on wheels, transportation, counseling and other assistance to the elderly.

Stancil spoke about the different types of abuse to elders. They deal with physical, such as beating; sexual, such as when an elder doesn’t understand what is happening; emotional, such as intimidation; confinement, such as isolation; passive neglect, such as a caregiver not giving an older adult enough to survive on; welfare deprivation, such as taking away food stamps; financial exploitation; and self neglect, which is when an older person can’t take care of themselves.

“The typical victim is a woman that is 79 years old with multiple impairments,” Stancil said. “The typical abuser is an adult son with substance abuse and financial problems. Seventy percent of victims are women while the other 30 percent are men. For the abusers, 51 percent are men and 49 percent are women. Seventy-six percent of abusers are either a spouse, child or other relative.”

The focus on elder abuse was new this year.

“They decided to have a speaker come in and so they picked someone that works with elderly people,” Jones said. “That was the focus. But there is a lot of elder abuse in the community, so it was an opportunity to expand in one area of abuse.”

For the walk itself, Jones hopes people are now more aware of domestic violence and that there is always help available.

“I hope of course that it helps people be more aware of how prevalent domestic violence is,” Jones said. “There is help out there. That’s the biggest thing for me, is that people are aware there is an agency that can help them with legal advocacy or provide counseling or shelter if they need to leave their home to a safe place to stay. That’s the big message we are trying to put out there to help people these days.”

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