The Hattiesburg Police Department, Alpha Chi Omega and the alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta partnered Saturday for a 5k run and 1-mile walk to raise awareness and money for local victims of domestic violence.
"It's so exciting to see the community come out to spread the word about domestic violence awareness," said Hattiesburg Police Lt. Latosha Myers-Mitchell, who leads the department's domestic violence unit. "We had more runners than we did last year. Everybody was excited. We're just glad that people came out to share with us."
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 393 domestic violence victims, 197 children and 196 adults, in Mississippi spent time in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence shelters on a single day in September 2014. Saturday, about 100 runners raised money to support Hattiesburg's Domestic Abuse Family Shelter (DAFS).
"We work directly with the Hattiesburg Domestic Abuse Family Shelter," Myers-Mitchell said. "We often refer people there, and to know that they're trying to upgrade their facilities and that we'll be able to help by donations and the money that we raise (Saturday) is going to be exciting for us. They are a great asset to the community, and we are honored to be able to help them."
According to NCADV, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States, which is more than 10 million men and women in one year. In Hattiesburg, about 70 percent of the homicides in 2016 have been domestic related.
"We all know at least one person going through domestic violence, even though we don't want to admit it," said Stephanie Dillon, DAFS Hattiesburg shelter manager. "We know they are going through it. Maybe we will help them we'll be able to help them get through that course and maybe find some other alternatives."
Myers-Mitchell said, "Sometimes people are shy or people don't want to talk about it. But they can come and support. They can come and just become more aware. Coming and participating in the 5k, donating, just being among others gives people a sense of hope. We had people that didn't even register for the race. They just showed up (and) wanted the camaraderie and wanted the love, and that's what we wanted to do in the community today."
October is domestic violence awareness month, and Myers-Mitchell said the department will continue events throughout the month. She said the department will hold a domestic violence vigil and check presentation to DAFS on Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. at Hattiesburg City Hall.
While domestic violence awareness is important, Myers-Mitchell said knowing it's happening isn't enough.
"Domestic violence, we want to put a stop to it," she said. "We don't want to prevent it. We want to put a stop to it. No one should hurt. As (the) shirt says, it may hurt to walk away. You might be in those situations, but you're very capable of walking away with the support that you have here today. The police department, our university, our Domestic Abuse Family Shelter, so many different people want to help get you out of those situations. It's going to hurt. It's going to hurt sometimes to walk away, but you can. And you will."