October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with events all over the country – and here in our community – to raise awareness about a widespread but often unspoken issue.

The statistics about domestic violence are staggering. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, nearly one in four women in America – and nearly one in seven men – will experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. And domestic violence often goes unreported – so much so that experts on the subject still consider an increase in reports to be a positive step. (It doesn’t mean domestic violence is on the rise, they say; it means it’s no longer being swept under the rug.)

In October 1981, a national “Day of Unity” brought domestic violence survivors together to speak out about the issue – and it quickly became an annual tradition. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first declared in 1987, and it’s been commemorated every October since.

In Orange County, related events are being organized by the Compass Center for Women and Families, a local organization that works with survivors of domestic violence in our community. The center is hosting a kickoff event and happy hour on Tuesday, October 4, from 4-7 pm at the Crunkleton on West Franklin Street; the bar is making a special drink for the event, and 100 percent of sales will be donated to the Compass Center. Other events later in the month include:

  • “coffee and conversation” at the UNC Student Union on Tuesday, October 11 from 5:15-6:30;
  • a screening of the film “Behind Closed Doors” at the Varsity Theater on Thursday, October 13 at 6 pm;
  • a short film screening and panel discussion at Motorco in Durham on Sunday, October 16 (time TBD), co-hosted by the LGBT Center of Raleigh;
  • and an Arts Night at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Thursday, October 27 from 6-8 pm, featuring a cappella vocal groups and spoken-word poetry.

Get the full calendar of events here.

Compass Center executive director Cordelia Heaney and board member Beth Posner (a law professor at UNC) spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


While the Compass Center specializes in helping domestic violence victims, experts say there’s also a correlation between domestic violence and sexual assault. Orange County Rape Crisis Center executive director Irene Dwinnell and associate director Alyson Culin also spoke with Aaron Keck this week to explore that intersection.


If you’re a victim of domestic violence, or if you know someone who is, the Compass Center for Women and Families has a 24-hour hotline at 919-929-7122.

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do for Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationally, visit this page on the website of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.


Chapel Hill Man Charged with Strangling Ex-Girlfriend

A Chapel Hill man is facing charges after reportedly strangling a female victim.

Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says Chapel Hill Police received a report of the assault on Tuesday.

“The victim reported an incident from the previous day that she said occurred Monday mid-day,” Mecimore says, “where the suspect, it looks like, grabbed her from behind, strangled her from behind.”

Mecimore says it appears the suspect and victim had been in a previous relationship.

Police have arrested 33-year-old Phillip Rashan Walker in connection with the assault.

Mecimore says Walker has also been charged with communicating threats and cyberstalking.

“It looks like he’s also been contacting her via text and messages on social media platforms where he’s made some threatening comments,” Mecimore says.

The arrest report lists Walker’s employer as UNC Hospital but also says he is unemployed. Mecimore says that means he was likely either formerly or is currently employed by UNC Hospital.

The report says Walker was charged with felony assault by strangulation and misdemeanor charges of assault on a female, communicating threats and cyberstalking.

Mecimore says there was evidence of the assault but no injuries that appeared to be life-threatening.

Walker was held in the Orange County Jail without bond and was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon.

The Compass Center for Women and Families offers a 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (919) 929-7122.


Suspect in Chapel Hill Domestic Violence Case Arrested in Oklahoma

An arrest has been made in connection with a domestic assault in Chapel Hill earlier this month.

Kevin Tyler Schuster was apprehended in Canadian County, Oklahoma, for possessing a stolen vehicle, according to police.

Chapel Hill law enforcement officials say Schuster is awaiting extradition back to North Carolina to face charges stemming from the October 24 domestic assault. Schuster is facing charges of felony assault by strangulation, felony kidnapping, felony motor vehicle theft, felony obtaining property by false pretenses, in addition to misdemeanor larceny and interference with emergency communication.

The victim was transported to UNC Emergency Department with injuries that are not believed to be life threatening, according to police. There was no update given on the victim’s condition.


Wednesday Is “Martha’s Day” For Compass Center

Domestic violence is an issue that often goes unspoken, but it touches millions of lives each year – including thousands here in Orange County.

This Wednesday, July 8, from 6-8 pm, the DSI Comedy Theater on W. Franklin Street is hosting the third annual “Martha’s Day” event to raise funds and awareness for the fight against domestic violence.

Organized by Laura Morrison, “Martha’s Day” is an annual event held in memory of Morrison’s mother, Martha Pearson, who was killed by her husband in 1995 at the age of 42. (Morrison was only nine.) July 8 was Pearson’s birthday – she would have been 62 this year.

Proceeds raised will go to benefit the Compass Center for Women and Families, which offers services for domestic violence victims and leads the fight against domestic violence here in our community. (Morrison is serving as board chair this year.)

The Compass Center serves about a thousand victims of domestic violence every year, just in our area – and Morrison says that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Domestic violence doesn’t hurt its victims in a vacuum,” she writes on the Compass Center’s website. “Those victims are our friends; they are our family. They are our teachers, our co-workers, our employers. Domestic violence – and violence in general – has such a ripple effect; it touches so many people in so many different ways, and because we tend to avoid talking about it, we’re often unaware of how our community is shaped by violence.

“And that’s why these awareness-raising events and efforts are vital: it’s up to us as a community to start having difficult conversations and to start fixing a problem that ultimately touches all of us.”

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Laura Morrison.


Tickets for this year’s Martha’s Day event are $20, which includes a DSI Comedy show and a catered reception with food from Jersey Mike’s, the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe. (Vimala Rajendran has helped organize the Martha’s Day event from the beginning.)

Martha’s Day is sponsored by Molly Maid of Chapel Hill, DSI Comedy, A Better Image Printing, Ceremony Salon, Vinyl Perk, Flyleaf Books, and Local 506.

Visit compassctr.org/marthasday for tickets and more information.


Domestic Violence Victims Need Long-Term Support To Leave Abusers

Orange County deputies responded to more than one thousand domestic violence calls last year, prompting Sheriff Charles Blackwood to call for Orange County to tackle domestic violence head on.

“It is unconscionable that Orange County does not have a shelter for our victims,” says Blackwood.

Ardith Burkes is the interim Executive Director for the Compass Center for Women and Families. She agrees, but says the need for services extends beyond an emergency shelter.

“There’s a need for shelter options, both a crisis shelter but also to look at long-term housing options for victims who are leaving an abusive situation, but they really don’t have the financial means yet to be able to support themselves and their children separate from that abuser,” says Burkes.

Currently, women who seek help to leave their abusers are either referred to shelters outside Orange County, or temporarily housed in local hotel rooms. Beyond the immediate question of where to go, Burkes says those fleeing abuse need long-term support to rebuild their lives.

“It’s really hard to be able to support yourself long-term when you leave a relationship that’s abusive, and so, the solution is not just having a domestic violence shelter, but really, what is the long-term housing support that can be offered for those families so that they feel like they have somewhere to live if they’re going to leave their abusive situation and start over,” says Burkes.

A county task force was created in 2011 to explore the need for a crisis shelter, but those plans were put on hold while the Family Violence Prevention Center merged with the Women’s Center. Now, Burkes says students at the UNC School of Social Work are conducting an assessment of community needs.

“We’re bringing some energy back into the shelter discussion and figuring out how the community can really own this challenge and come together for the best outcomes,” says Burkes. “What do we need for the whole system to come together, so we don’t end up with just a shelter, but we end up with longer-term solutions with community buy-in?”

Blackwood and Burkes both say one key to preventing relationship violence is to educate young people about healthy power dynamics.

“Some of our work with dating violence and bullying prevention is to do just that, really primary prevention measures so that the next generation has had open, frank conversations about what is OK in relationships and create healthy relationships based on people having equal power, versus what really is not OK to do to or with your partner, so that they could be spared being victimized or becoming someone who has abusive behaviors or characteristics.”

The Compass Center offers a 24-hour hotline (919-929-7122) as well as a range of counseling and support services. To find out more, click here.


Orange Sheriff Calls For Domestic Violence Shelter: ‘The Need Is Critical’

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood says his deputies responded to 1,058 domestic violence incidents last year, and in his view, there’s a critical need for a shelter serving victims of domestic violence in our area.

You can listen to his comments here:


The Sheriff’s department employs two crisis intervention workers and one uniformed officer dedicated to handling domestic violence cases.

Blackwood offers advice to those who might be in need of help dealing with a violent relationship.


For more information about how to get help, you can contact:

-The Sheriff’s Department at 919-245-2900 or dial 911 in an emergency

– Crisis Intervention Worker Amber Keith-Drowns 919-245-2950 akeith@orangecountync.gov

-The Compass Center’s 24-hour hotline 919-929-7122 or http://compassctr.org





Butner Man Arrested For Attempted Murder, Kidnapping In Chapel Hill Assault

U.S. Marshals arrested a man in Oxford on Wednesday on charges of attempted murder in Chapel Hill.

Twenty-three-year-old Terrail Laquam Hicks, of Butner, is charged with four felonies: attempted first degree murder; first degree kidnapping; assault by strangulation; and assault inflicting serious injury.

Terrail Hicks

Terrail Hicks

According to police reports, Hicks forced his girlfriend into his car outside the Pulse nightclub on East Rosemary Street shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.

He reportedly beat her, then drove her to Durham against her will. She was released somewhere in Durham, and transported by ambulance to Durham Regional Hospital for a fractured jaw, fractured orbital and lacerations.

Three days later, the U.S. Marshal’s joint fugitive task force took Hicks into police custody at a home on Sam Moss Hayes Road in Oxford. Hicks is currently being held in the Orange County Jail on $420,500 bond.

If you or someone you know needs help dealing with domestic violence in Orange County, you can contact the Compass Center for Women and Families. They operate a 24-hour hotline: 919-929-7122.

There’s also a national domestic violence hotline you can call: 1-800-799-7233.


Orange County Woman Shot Multiple Times

A woman survived being shot multiple times by her husband Monday morning according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Officers responded to an emergency call from a home on University Station Road just before 4 a.m.

The woman, who has not been identified, was taken to Duke Hospital for treatment. Officers say this appears to be a domestic shooting.

Larry Adkins Griffin

Larry Adkins Griffin

Larry Adkins Griffin was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill. He’s being held without bond in the Orange County Jail.


Unmask Domestic Violence This Wednesday

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – and to mark the occasion, Chapel Hill’s Compass Center for Women and Families is hosting an event at City Kitchen, Wednesday evening from 6-8 pm.

It’s called “The Unmasking of Domestic Violence.” There will be food and live music – and also masks for sale, to represent the extent to which domestic violence remains a hidden issue, here in Orange County as well as nationwide.

Approximately one in four women will suffer domestic violence in their lifetimes. It’s an issue that’s not often discussed, but Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue says he sees it firsthand on a regular basis.

“From January to June of just this year, our agency alone responded to 145 domestic-related incidents – (and) those are just the ones we know about,” he says. “We know that a very small number of domestic-related conflicts get reported to law enforcement, yet we went to 145…

“Perhaps an even scarier number – and why the Compass Center is so important – is that in 58 of those cases, those were repeat occurrences. Those were places we’d been before. And that speaks to how difficult it is for folks to extract themselves from those situations and get the support that they need.”

The Compass Center offers a variety of services for survivors of domestic violence. Volunteer Marla Benton says Wednesday’s event is about raising awareness of the issue – and also a way to encourage people to make their voices heard.

“The big thing about domestic violence is coming out and talking about it,” she says. “It’s still the big secret. People don’t want to talk about it, they’re embarrassed, they want to protect themselves, they want to protect their families…

“There are people out there that think, ‘forget about it, move on, don’t talk about it anymore,’ but that’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to come out, talk about it, support each other, get help, go to Compass Center, talk to police and family and friends. And that’s what (Wednesday’s event) is all about.”

The “Unmasking of Domestic Violence” event is taking place at City Kitchen, this Wednesday from 6-8 pm. Donations and other proceeds will go to benefit the Compass Center. Learn more at CompassCTR.org.


#WhyIStayed – And How You Can Get Help

The scandal surrounding NFL star Ray Rice this week has sparked a renewed national discourse about domestic violence – a discourse that’s included some commentators wondering why women stay in abusive relationships.

Now, survivors of domestic violence are speaking out about the reasons “why they stayed” (with a #WhyIStayed hashtag on Twitter, created by writer Beverly Gooden) – and local organizations are getting the word out about the resources available to victims of abuse.

Ardith Burkes, interim executive director of the Compass Center for Women and Families here in Orange County, spoke with Aaron Keck this week on “Aaron in the Afternoon.”


Visit CompassCTR.org for information and assistance.

The Ray Rice scandal has actually been simmering for months. Earlier this year, video surfaced of Rice dragging his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer (who was apparently unconscious) out of an elevator in an Atlantic City hotel – disturbing footage that led to a brief suspension by his NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens. Last week, though, the Ravens canceled his contract altogether after new footage went public proving it was Rice himself who’d knocked her unconscious.

The resulting outcry has swirled largely around the NFL’s response – there’s some evidence that league officials knew the full story long ago and failed to act – but the incident also has people talking about the larger issue of domestic violence. Even there, though, the talk hasn’t been about Ray Rice so much as Janay Palmer – who stayed with Rice after the incident and has defended him publicly through the current scandal. (She’s now Janay Palmer-Rice – they’ve since been married.)

Why do women stay? The question is a troubling one, because (intentionally or not) it implies an accusation: ‘if you’re getting abused, it’s your own fault for not leaving.’ That’s been the undercurrent of a lot of the talk around Janay Palmer.

But the truth is – and this is the point of the #WhyIStayed hashtag that’s been trending on Twitter all week – that it’s not easy for a victim (male or female) to escape an abusive relationship.

“He said he’d kill me if I left.”

“I tried to leave the house once after an abusive episode, and he blocked me. He slept in front of the door that entire night.”

“I felt I had nowhere to go.”

“I wanted my ‘family’ to be together.”

“I thought divorce was not an option in my faith.”

“I thought I deserved it.”

“He convinced me that I was worth nothing.”

“Anyone I asked for help told me it was a ‘family matter.'”

“People (were) brushing it off because they didn’t think it was in his character.”

“Because…I didn’t think verbal abuse and emotional manipulation was considered an abusive relationship.”

“There was no money to get out, or place to go.”

The list goes on. Abuse victims stay because they feel powerless, or because in many cases they are powerless, physically or financially; they stay “for the kids”; they stay because they blame themselves; they stay because they have nowhere else to turn, or because the people they turn to refuse to help. And it’s not easy to leave. People often need support to get back on their feet – and for many victims, the abuse and harassment doesn’t end when they walk out the door.

#Why I Stayed Stories Reveal Why Domestic Violence Survivors Can’t “Just Leave”

Why Does A Woman Stay With A Violent Man?

And abuse does not necessarily have to take the form of physical or sexual violence: abuse can also be emotional or verbal as well. Persistent name-calling and threats, emotional manipulation, or controlling access to vehicles, phones, or friends can all constitute abuse, even without physical violence.

What Is Domestic/Family Violence?

But there is help. In our area, the Compass Center for Women and Families offers a 24-hour hotline for anyone experiencing abuse: 919-929-7122. It’s always available. The Compass Center also offers a wide variety of other resources for women and men experiencing abuse – including counseling, safety planning, support groups, and help with emergency shelter placement and domestic violence protective orders. Volunteers and staff members are trained to help victims through the process at their own pace – and the Compass Center offers services for people after they leave as well.

Click here for a list of services available through the Compass Center.

And the #WhyIStayed hashtag reminds us that abuse does not exist in a vacuum – it’s often reinforced by a society that doubts the victim, blames the victim, and refuses to help. That means the responsibility is on us too, not only to be supportive and offer our help when people turn to us in need, but also – before that even happens – to make it clear we WILL be supportive, that we will be allies if we’re ever called upon. Sometimes a supportive friend or family member can make the difference between someone leaving and not leaving – and sometimes the difference hinges on whether the victim believes she’ll find support if she asks for it.

And, of course, it’s also on us not to be abusive ourselves, to teach each other that abuse is never acceptable, to call out abuse when we see it, and not to turn a blind eye.

Because it’s here, in our community. The Compass Center worked with about 1000 victims of abuse last year alone – and as Burkes points out, that number only counts the victims that have sought and found help. There are many more.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse and you need help, call the Compass Center’s hotline at 919-929-7122, or find them online at CompassCTR.org. The Center is always seeking volunteers as well; visit them online to learn more about how you can help.