By Michael V. Hannigan
ATHENS – In June 2009, 22-year-old Kristi Morris was gunned down in front of her 2-year-old daughter. The shooter was her husband, Matt Morris.
“Every day since that day my heart aches for my daughter,” said her mother, Terry Dreier. “I miss her so much and my life will never be the same.”
Dreier spoke at the Domestic Violence Awareness Month rally on the steps of the Henderson County Courthouse last week.
“When you hear somebody talk about domestic violence, you tend to think, ‘It could never happen to me,’ ‘I could never let anyone treat me like that,’ or ‘That just happens to a few people,’” she said. “You might wonder how anyone could stay in such a situation. Well love does strange things to us, and sometimes causes us to lie to ourselves about what’s really going on. It can cause us to hide the pain and the bruises. We want love so badly, we think we can change the one we fell in love with. The truth is you cannot change anyone no matter how you try. You must learn to change yourself and know that you do not deserve to be abused.”
The message is one that needs to be spread in Henderson County.
The following statistics for the county for the fiscal year ending August 2011 were released at the rally:
– The East Texas Crisis Center assisted 241 new victims of domestic violence while continuing to help 207 existing clients.
– The Help Center assisted 440 child victims and secondary victims.
– The Family Peace Project assisted 216 victims.
That adds up to 897 new victims for the year, or more than 2.5 new victims every day.
“We have a huge issue in Henderson County with assault family violence,” said Crisis Center Director of Outreach Donna Johnson. “(Those statistics) tell you just how big a problem we have here.”
The rally brought together a large group of people who know just how much domestic violence hurts.
“We can have all the statistics read to us, but when statistics are brought down to a person it really hits home about what happens to families when domestic violence within the family,” said County Judge Richard Sanders.
“Today is about putting the word out,” said Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee. “There are so many voices out there that are not heard. I think that is what domestic violence awareness is about; it is about making sure people know that there are these situations out there where help is needed.”
“These aren’t easy cases to deal with; they aren’t easy cases to prosecute,” he said. “They’re tragic, they really tear your feelings up, and they’re difficult emotionally and mentally. But we are here ready to stand and fight. I know law enforcement is, the criminal justice system is, the district attorney’s office and the county attorneys office, we’re ready to fight but we need your help.”
“Let’s give this problem a voice in Henderson County,” he added.
But it was Dreier who had the most important call to action.
“Break the cycle,” she said, “ask for help, get out of a dangerous situation and give yourself time to heal because life is worth living.”