Forrest Co. Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s Office recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 8:42 PM CDT
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FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Monday morning in Forrest County, the district attorney and his team visited the board of supervisors for the official proclamation recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Members from the DA’s office and sheriff’s department received the proclamation and thanked the board for helping bring awareness to the rising issue.

Assistant District Attorney, Becky Pruett Denham, says she’s seen an increase in cases coming across her desk. She’s been presenting nearly 12 to 15 cases a week to grand juries – where she used to have 5 or 6.

“We have seen an uptick at the district attorney’s office and also in our law enforcement agencies during COVID. We’ve also seen that with child abuse and that’s because we’re confined in close quarters, and you can understand the tension with job loss and, and just the way that everything’s going in our society right now,” shares Denham.

She also says domestic violence comes in several different forms, and not all of them leave visible wounds.

“It’s not just physical violence, it’s also emotional violence, financial coercion, threatening children taking children away there’s so many avenues that someone can, you know, assert their power and control over an individual. You don’t always see the scars sometimes the bruises are internal, but then also sometimes they’re strategically placed by perpetrators to where you can’t detect them,” Denham explains.

At a meeting Monday, the Forrest County Board of Supervisors officially declared October Domestic Violence Awareness month. On Thursday, Oct. 21, the City of Hattiesburg is encouraging people to wear purple to spread awareness.

Forrest County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate Derica Killingsworth says this is a reminder to check on your loved ones and neighbors. If you see something, say something.

“If you hear something, you know your neighbor’s going through something, you know that you’re hearing bumps through the night, you know. Ask them, ‘Hey, is everything okay,’ and if you aren’t comfortable with doing that, at least pick up the phone and call and, you know, say ‘Hey, something’s not right next door. Could y’all please come out and call your local law enforcement,’” says Killingsworth.

Denham says it’s important to have support and proclamations like this one from the county to help spark discussion about the topic. She says she knows it’s not an easy conversation, but it’s more important then ever to be there for the many people being hurt in domestic violence situations.

“Of course, it’s not easy for them to leave. So we’re not asking for people to be understanding of what a victim is going through because it’s hard for them to understand. What we’re asking them to do is to support them to be there for them to listen to speak up if they see something. As the special victims’ prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, it is certainly near and dear to my heart, that we not only recognize domestic violence but go after it vigorously,” says Denham.

Denham says reporting or appearing as a witness to a domestic abuse situation is essential to holding abusers accountable and creating a safe community.

“You see a crime happen on the corner, you’re going to call into not one, but when you know that crimes are happening behind closed doors in a familial setting... a lot of times people are not going to report that. And so to have recognition and awareness and to have the supervisors back us and the sheriff’s office be here to recognize that this important crime, that’s important,” says Denham.

Killingsworth reminds people that law enforcement agencies have victim advocates who are there for people struggling to escape abuse. She says there are lots of resources, including the local Domestic Abuse Shelter in Laurel.

“We do provide shelter. If you come in and you’re needing somewhere safe to say, we can provide you with somewhere safe. We do work with organizations that are well equipped to provide you with the necessary needs. So don’t feel like you know you have no other option, whether it’s financial, you know, we can help you with that, just come in and talk to us, let us know what’s going on, so that way we can better assist you,” Killingsworth says.

You can learn more about the Domestic Abuse Shelter here.

City and county officials gathered Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. for a candlelight vigil at Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center to honor people who have lost their lives in domestic abuse and violent situations.

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