The county has seen an increase in the number of lives taken by family members, spouses or exes. There’s been three domestic homicides in Loudoun already this year.
It’s not only prompted law enforcement to adopt a new protocol to get victims of abuse help earlier, it’s also rallied community members to ask what they can do to be a part of the solution.
Domestic abuse prevention groups, law enforcement, churches, the Loudoun County chapter of NAACP and others are teaming up to host a community meeting Tuesday to raise awareness about domestic violence.
It is planned for 7 p.m. at the Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison St. in Leesburg.
Stephany DeBerry, a Loudoun real estate agent who helped organize the meeting, said she wants it to be the start of an ongoing campaign that educates Loudoun residents about the help that is available to victims of abuse through organizations like Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.
DeBerry lost her two friends, Andre and Naomi Howell, to domestic violence in January. Investigators believe Andre Howell killed his wife in their Lansdowne home and then took his own life. DeBerry said she felt compelled to do something to learn, and spread the word, about what warning signs to watch for in relationships. “We never saw it coming,” she said. “All I could think was how did this happen? How did it fall through the cracks?”
After Christina Fisher, a mother of three, was gunned down in her home on Nansemond Street in Leesburg earlier this month, DeBerry took her frustrations to Facebook. What she got in response was countless posts from men and women wanting to know what they could do to prevent another homicide.
She’s working with representatives from LAWS, the office of County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), the office of the Loudoun County commonwealth’s attorney, Leesburg Police Department and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, among others, to put on the meeting.
“We want to talk about what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again, including what signs to be aware of,” she said. “We want to make sure people are aware of everything that Loudoun County has to offer.”
Lori Carter, of Ashburn, has agreed to share her story at the meeting. She stayed in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend for eight years before leaving. She’s speaking up because she wants victims of abuse to know that there is help available, and freedom outside abusive relationships.
Insistent control or name calling can be early signs of abuse, she said. “It’s all part of domestic violence. You need to stand up and correct the situation right away. You don’t have to stay in that situation.”
For more information about the “Help Bring Domestic Violence Out of the Dark” meeting, contact Stephany DeBerry at firstname.lastname@example.org.