Remember Savannah Smith? She is the gentle young woman from our own community who disappeared on June 8, after a reported argument with her boyfriend. Although authorities have not yet identified a body found last week as Savannah’s, local law enforcement believe she may have been a victim of a intimate-partner violence.
Savannah was only 22 when she vanished. Her life had value and her absence is felt by many. She has been cherished as someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, and her disappearance and possible demise has devastated those who truly love her. They understand love is not supposed to hurt.
Too often women, and some men, are abused by those closest to them. Domestic violence cuts across racial, religious, ethnic, social and economic lines. Stress and drug and alcohol abuse often fan the flames. Also, domestic violence can be passed from one generation to another. The children of spousal abusers may repeat the behavior they witnessed or become victims themselves. It is a societal illness that should be prevented.
Think of the flesh-and-blood people represented by the following stark statistics. Remember Savannah.
On average, more than three women are murdered each day in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends. Nearly one in four American women will experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
Georgia is ranked 15th in the United States for domestic-violence fatalities. Three years ago, the state’s ranking was even more dubious, as No. 7 in the country for homicides committed by intimate partners. Social workers and law-enforcement personnel will tell you most victims of intimate-partner homicides were killed when they attempted to leave an abusive relationship.
According to a 2009 study by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, Liberty County had four domestic violence-related deaths in 2003 and tallied six such deaths in 2006. One death resulting from domestic violence is simply too many.
So what can we do?
We can raise our children to respect others, to treat other people the way they want to be treated. Boys, especially, should be taught that real men are gentlemen. Girls, especially, should be taught to respect and value themselves.
We can support a friend or relative who may be in an abusive relationship.
Call the Hinesville Police Department or Liberty County Sheriff’s Office if you see or hear evidence of domestic violence off post. Call the military police if you hear or see such incidents on Fort Stewart. Domestic violence is a hidden crime, carried out behind closed doors.
Take a self-defense class. The HPD has offered such classes before, sometimes to neighborhood-watch groups.
Volunteer at a local shelter for victims of domestic violence or join a group that works to prevent domestic violence.
Help educate the community. Invite someone from a local shelter to speak at your civic club, church or workplace.
Contact your elected officials and urge them to provide funding for domestic-violence-prevention programs or financial and legislative support for victims of violence.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get help if you are being abused by your intimate partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is always open, night or day, at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224. The local Tri County Protective Agency can be reached at 368-9200.
Don’t let another woman — be it you, your mother, sister, daughter or friend — become another statistic. Remember Savannah.