Blount takes stand against domestic violence
By Wes Wade | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When it comes to the subject of domestic violence, many in Blount County have had enough.
That’s why a group of advocates, officials, victims and family members of those affected by violence gathered outside the Blount County Justice Center Tuesday night to hold a candlelight vigil.
Some 50 people attended the vigil, which has been held for the past 16 years. Given the fact the vigil was rescheduled at the end of October due to inclement weather, the vigil saw a good turnout, said Monica Aistrop, a domestic violence advocate for the Blount County District Attorney General’s Office.
Blount County judges Robert Headrick and Tammy Harrington were present, as was District Attorney Mike Flynn. Flynn, with the help of Blount County Task Force Against Domestic Violence chairperson Jennifer Shudan, recognized area first responders for the service they provide violence victims every day.
“They put their lives on the line every time they answer one of these calls, and they make a real difference in the lives of these victims,” Flynn said.
Those first responder agencies recognized included the police and fire departments for the cities of Maryville and Alcoa, the Blount County Fire Department, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and Rural/Metro Ambulance Service.
Victim steps up
Kaitlynn Sauls, an 18-year-old Maryville woman who was the victim of domestic violence for eight years, was the featured guest speaker for this year’s vigil. Sauls recounted how she became a victim at age 8 and, as she got older, the violence grew worse. She talked about how she worried about her family members and how they were coping with the problem. And while it’s hard for many victims to come forward and talk about the issue, she said that’s exactly her advice to other victims.
“You need to step up and say something to someone,” Sauls said. “Don’t let the violence get to a point where you can’t control it.” She said that’s what she tried to do, and it didn’t work.
Shudan, a domestic violence investigator for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, said that unfortunately, Sauls is not alone. Shudan explained that 15 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year. Every day, three women die as a result of domestic violence and more than 600 men die each year as victims of domestic violence, she said.
Aistrop said the Blount County Task Force Against Domestic Violence was started in September 1994, after many community organizations, leaders and law enforcement officials decided to try to put an end to domestic violence. Aistrop said that endeavor goes for violence of any kind, citing Blount County’s problem with child and elderly abuse.
The task force started as a grass-roots effort and continues in that mold to this day, she said, with donations and a community effort keeping the group afloat.
Blount County Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington was asked to lay a wreath at the victim’s garden, which sits outside the Blount County Justice Center as a monument to survivors of violence, those working to end violence and those who have died as victim’s of violence.
She asked Andy Waters and Mike Seratt of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to join her in the laying of the wreath due to their work with domestic violence victims, she said.