FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- In an effort to bring Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month to everyone's attention, the annual opening ceremony was held here, Oct. 1 at Army Community Services.
October is the month that each year as much information as possible is presented throughout the civilian and military communities to recognize the Domestic Violence Prevention program.
Michael Waldrop, deputy to the U.S. Army Garrison commander, Fort Sam Houston, opened the ceremony with remarks and the reading of the proclamation.
"The Army is now fully cognizant that the total well being of our Soldiers is totally dependent on the well being of our Soldier's families. The quality of life and maintenance of that quality of life is important to all of us and important to the Army in a broad perspective. To meet the mission we must preserve that quality and that includes domestic violence," said Waldrop.
Each year 3.5 million violations are committed against family members. The Army has its proportionate share of that. Domestic violence is not to be condoned. Do not turn a blind eye."
During the ceremony, stories of domestic abuse were read from the female and male perspective. Silhouettes were also on display with other stories of violence against family members.
In a more poignant testimony, Sarah Small, the guest speaker, told her story of seven years of abuse by her then husband, and prince charming, who also was a member of law enforcement. Her words were ones that would echo in the minds of the listeners.
"It couldn't happen to me," said Small of her life before the abuse began. But, she found it could happen to her, and it could happen to anyone.
Small, an advocate for domestic abuse awareness, spoke from the heart as she replayed the events that led to her writing her own obituary over five years ago. However, her words weren't needed and she is a survivor of a crowbar attack to her head and face, and loaded guns put to her head and in her mouth, stabbings, punching, slaps and even the killing of her dogs as means of threatening intimidation.
Small survived the seven years of brutal abuse and today uses her story to tell others of how domestic abuse can happen to anyone. "As an 'Army of one' we need to be aware of the unusual. Ask about the sunglasses if they aren't the norm for an individual, unusual bruises, sudden withdrawal, be aware," urged Small.
Following Small's unforgettable words of terror and escape from her abuser was a candlelight vigil, a silent witness presentation in honor of the victims of domestic abuse. Members of the audience held flickering 'candles' as the Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention ceremony came to a solemn conclusion.
Domestic Violence Awareness is something everyone needs take seriously. Survivors don't necessarily like to stand before a crowd and share their stories of abuse, but everyone needs to hear them. If they make the listeners squirm in their seats then the words have touched the heart.
From the words of the proclamation, "We need all Soldiers, civilians, family members and retirees at this installation to dedicate themselves to the prevention of domestic abuse. Everyone is called upon to be a part of the perfect combination for prevention."