October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and each year Lassen Family Services, a local nonprofit agency that provides services to those dealing with domestic violence issues, hosts a wreath dedication ceremony honoring local law enforcement officers who lost their lives in domestic violence incidents.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month began as a Day of Unity in October 1981 with the purpose of mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived and connecting those who work to end domestic violence. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed in October 1987.
As Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon pointed out during the wreath dedication ceremony held at noon at the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office last Wednesday, Oct. 11, “Domestic violence knows no social or economic boundaries. It exists in all segments of our population, and no one is exempt from its influence. Relationships should be based on love and respect rather than intimidation and abuse. It is incumbent on each of us to do our part in combating domestic violence, and I’m happy and proud that we as a community are standing together to fight it.”
The statistics on domestic violence are absolutely staggering. According to the Family & Youth Service Bureau, in just one day in 2015, more than 31,500 adults and children fled domestic violence to find emergency shelter — the most urgent need for domestic violence survivors. Without shelters, such as the one operated by LFS, many survivors would be homeless, could face losing their children or making decisions out of desperation. A whopping 38 percent of domestic violence victims become homeless, and homeless women are far more likely to experience some sort of violence.
Locally, the annual wreath dedication ceremony recognizes the ultimate sacrifice made by law enforcement officers because of domestic violence.
Lassen County Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Griffith was shot and killed responding to a domestic violence call near Ravendale in 1995. As three deputies exited their vehicles Griffith was shot and killed by the alleged perpetrator.
Growdon said Griffith “chose the law enforcement profession out of a strong desire to help people. He ultimately lost his life while trying to protect someone who could not protect herself.”
Susanville Police Officer Robert McElrath was murdered in a domestic violence incident in January 2011. Susanville Police Chief John King said McElrath was “loved by everyone.”
For the past two years, the wreath dedication ceremony has also honored Modoc County Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Hopkins, killed in 2016 responding to a domestic violence call.
Perhaps those who did not attend the wreath dedication ceremony can pause for a moment to remember these brave law enforcement officers and their sacrifice.
And we all should pause and recognize domestic violence can affect any one of us — regardless of our social status.
As King pointed out it’s up to each and every one of us to speak up and do our part to end domestic violence. Working together we can make a difference in the lives of those men, women and children who suffer through domestic violence.