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October 17, 2012

Ceremony gives voice to domestic violence victims

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Ceremony gives voice to domestic violence victims
These cutouts represent Rochester Hills teacher Susan Pawlecki Jarrell, 45, and Julian VanDerLinden, 7, of Van Buren Township, both victims of domestic violence.

The male and female faces represented all ages, races and income levels.

Susan Pawlecki Jarrell, 45, a teacher from Rochester Hills. Robert Cipriano, 52, a husband and father from Farmington Hills. Tashana Kalka, 17, of Southfield. Patrick O’Rourke, a West Bloomfield police officer, husband and father.

All were victims of domestic violence and all were remembered at the Silent Witness Commemoration Service at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Oct. 10 in observance of October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to Haven, which provides shelter for victims of domestic violence, one in three Michigan families is impacted by domestic violence, and in the U.S., 98 percent of batterers are male.

In Troy, of 36,800 calls for police service since last October, 254 were reports of domestic assaults, and one was a domestic assault with a gun. Five of the reports were domestic aggravated assaults with weapons, and there were 495 “family trouble” calls, the majority of which did not result in assaults. One tragic incident was classified as a murder of a family member with a weapon — Patrick Mikes Sr.’s son stands charged with the crime.

Troy police officer Andy Breidenich explained that incidents classified as domestic assault reports include many that police can not substantiate. He added that some of the reports of family troubles could be as simple as two kids arguing.

“Domestic violence is marked by a lot of shame and guilt,” said Cathy Meilke, director of medical/surgical units and co-chair of the domestic violence committee at the hospital. She added that it cuts across all ages, social strata and religions. She said the goal of the remembrance service, now in its 12th year, is to increase awareness, talk about the issue and provide healing.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca, keynote speaker, said she has attended the event for most of the 12 years it has been held. She said she was unaware of the realities of domestic violence until she became a prosecutor for the Oakland County domestic violence division.

“One in three people are affected by domestic violence,” she said, noting that last year in Oakland County, 8,492 people were victims of domestic violence. “And those are just the ones we know,” she said, adding that most incidents go unreported because the victims are afraid they will lose their children, the batterer promises to change or the victim lacks support. Fear of deportation, and cultural and religious beliefs also can stifle reporting of the crime.

Batterers beat because they can, Gorcyca said.

“Does the batterer beat his boss?” she asked. She said there is no other crime in which the criminal can convince the victim to drop the charges or not press them in the first place. “The shame should be on the batterer, not the victim,” she said. 

Gorcyca said the most dangerous time for victims is when they leave their abusers.

Domestic violence, she said, is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15-44 and results in health care costs of more than $4 billion a year in the U.S.

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels, Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett read out the names of the 22 victims of domestic violence who have lost their lives in Michigan over the last year as hospital staff and Valentina Djelaj, the surviving daughter of a victim of domestic violence and the keynote speaker at last year’s event, rang a bell in remembrance of each victim. 

Djelaj said her father shot and killed her mother, Maria, before turning the gun on himself about six months after Maria had filed for divorce in an effort to get away from the violence.

“There is no reason for domestic violence,” Gorcyca said.

For information about Haven, call (248) 334-1274.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.