Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

October 11, 2011

Stop domestic violence!

Ceremony held at courthouse in honor of the hundreds of victims of domestic violence

Athens — Dozens gathered at the courthouse in Athens Tuesday afternoon in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as the East Texas Crisis Center and Family Peace Project hosted the Clothesline Project.

T-shirts ranging in a variety of colors were displayed in front of the courthouse steps honoring victims of domestic violence.

Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders read a proclamation passed by the Henderson County Commissioners Court proclaiming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Domestic violence is a problem we have spent many, many years, no telling how much money and countless hours from volunteers, law enforcement and other offices in the county to try and counteract the best we can,” Sanders said. “I am very proud of the officials of Henderson County that work on this everyday and do what they can to help root out this evil, evil part of our society. We need to try out best to daily help the victims of domestic violence in our county, state and country.”

The signing of the proclamation came after Terry Dreier spoke on the direct impact of domestic violence in her life as her daughter's life, Kristi Morris, was taken on June 15, 2009 in LaRue.

“Kristi was only 22 years old and was a beautiful young woman with so much to live for. She graduated with honors while managing to be a wife and a mother. She was fixing to continue her college education but first she had to escape an abusive marriage,” Dreier said. “Things had escalated to a point where she and began to fear for her and her children's lives.”

Like most women of domestic violence, Morris wanted to have a happy marriage and was ashamed to tell what was happening.

“Just a week before she left he held a knife to her throat and she knew it was time to plan to leave. She wanted to start a new life but on the afternoon of June 15, 2009 she was gunned down in front of her two-year-old daughter. She was pronounced dead early the next morning. It was the longest night of my life,” Dreier said.

Dreier continues to miss her daughter although she knows Morris is in a better place without fear and pain. She credited her family and faith in God in helping her through such an ordeal.

“I have wanted to do something since that time to take a stand against domestic violence,” Dreier said. “It took me the past two years to pull myself together to do so. I vow to do everything I can to help others to not go through the pain my family has suffered. When you hear someone talk about domestic violence you tend to think it will never happen to me. You might wonder how anyone could stay in such a situation. Well, love causes us to lie to ourselves about what is really going on. We want love so badly we think we can change the one we fell in love with. The truth is you can not change anyone, no matter how you try. You must change yourself and chose not to be abused.”

She encourages those being abused to break the cycle, get out of a dangerous situation and ask for help.

East Texas Crisis Center executive director Donna Johnson said domestic violence is a huge issue in Henderson County. She said from September 2010 to August 2011 the Crisis Center has assisted 241 new victims of domestic violence while continuing to assist 207 existing clients. The HELP Center has assisted 440 child and secondary victims while the Family Peace Project has assisted 216 victims.

“When statistics are brought down to a person, it really hits home on the effects of domestic violence,” Sanders said. “I want to commend (Terry) on your courage to bring that story to us today. Our heart goes out to you. God bless you and your family.”

Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee also spoke on the effects of domestic violence and the effects the Morris case had on him and the department.

“Today is about getting the word out. There are so many voices out there that are not heard,” McKee said. “We have so many organizations in the county that are here to help. These cases are difficult, but we are here ready to stand and fight. We need the community's help to stand up to domestic violence. Our mission is to raise awareness and give the victims of domestic violence a voice.”

To report domestic violence, or to find out more about the various agencies in Henderson County that are devoted to end domestic violence, contact Donna Johnson at the East Texas Crisis Center at 903-675-2137.

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