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Roundtable aims to raise awareness and stop domestic violence

Ashley Hirtzel

A roundtable discussion about domestic violence prevention took place in downtown Buffalo Friday. The meeting was hosted by Senator Mark Grisanti and the Family Justice Center of Buffalo.

The discussion entitled ‘Domestic Violence: Prevention Starts With You’ aims to spread awareness about domestic violence and put a stop to it happening in society.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, but only one in seven instances are reported.

Several survivors of domestic violence and family members of deceased victims told their story during the hearing. An emotional David Wisniewski told the story of how his sister Jackie Wisniewski was murdered at Erie County Medical Center in June 2012, as a result of domestic violence.

“Shamefully I used to think this was a woman’s issue, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When more than 90 percent of acts of domestic violence are committed by men, this is a men’s issue. To me the face of domestic violence isn’t a woman, it’s a man. Let’s put more focus on the perpetrators. Nowhere else do we ask victims of a crime to run and hide, leave behind everything you know, and pray he doesn’t find you. Stiffer penalties and cycle breaking consequences for the perpetrators is a start,” said Wisniewski.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
Survivors and family members of domestic violence, Senator Mark Grisanti, Executive Director of Family Justice Center Mary Travers Murphy and David Wisniewski.

Wisniewski says he feels there should be more education for young people, especially boys, on what respectful relationships look like. There was a moment of silence for those that died at the hands of domestic violence offenders.

Executive Director of the Family Justice Center Mary Travers Murphy it’s important for victims to understand that the abuse is not their fault and help is available. She says her office helps victims escape their violent situation, safely.

“What we want to do is spell out the warning signs, so people can recognize. Being isolated from family and friends, that’s a big red flag. Somebody trying to control your every move, that’s a big red flag. Somebody humiliating you publicly, that’s a big red flag. It’s all about power and control. Our message is you need to know the signs and get out as quickly as possible,” said Travers Murphy.

Travers Murphy says it’s important to educate young people about controlling behaviors and healthy relationships. She says it’s also crucial to hold perpetrators accountable.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
People listening to family members and survivors of domestic violence tell their story.

“People ask victims: ‘why don’t you just leave?’ How about we look at perpetrators and say: ‘why don’t you just stop.’ This is absolutely a men’s issue. These are our daughters, our aunts, our nieces, our co-workers, and our mothers,” said Travers Murphy.

Senator Grisanti says he’s working on legislation to close loopholes in current domestic violence laws and strengthening penalties for abusers. He says he’s asking the state legislature as a whole pass Jackie’s Law, a bill named in memory of Jackie Wisniewski, which would allow police to file felony charges against anyone who installs a GPS tracking device to stalk another person.