Letters for 10-16-2014

Support DART, raise awareness
More than 20 years ago, Union Parish residents who needed to escape a violent relationship didnít have many resources.
If they knew where to look, there were individuals willing to help, though, and eventually in 1994, those individuals finally secured the funding and resources to create the Domestic Abuse Resistance Team.
DART began with only one full-time staff member and a part-time worker, and at that time only served Lincoln Parish. Now, 20 years later, the organization serves seven parishes including Union, has 21 employees and has a shelter that can house 12 individuals.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and DART has several things planned to help raise awareness on this issue that one in four women will face in their lifetime. For young women 16-24, statistics show that one in three of them will face domestic violence in their lifetime.
Right now, for example, residents can stop by during regular business hours at the Townsend House to purchase their fall pumpkins. This pumpkin patch has been raising funds for DART for many years, and has become a Ruston tradition.
As you drive by the Union Parish Courthouse, you have no doubt noted wooden silhouettes placed on the south lawn. These silhouettes represent 28 women, two men and four children that have lost their lives to domestic violence in the 3rd Judicial District. Each individual was recognized during the annual DART Candlelight Vigil, held on Oct. 3 in the Community Room and Claiborne Electric Cooperative..
Another recent push to raise awareness is the Men Standing Strong campaign. This group, which began last year, is comprised of men in the community who have pledged to take a stand against domestic violence. They are encouraged to discuss domestic violence with their friends, employees and the community and to make it clear that it is never OK to hurt the ones you love.
Jackie Hill, the Unioin Parish community advocate for DART, said the group has been lauded across the state state and nation as a shining example of a grassroots effort to put an end to domestic violence.
With Louisiana frequently being No. 1 on the annual count of domestic violence deaths ó the state has thankfully dropped to No. 4 this year ó we should all commend DART for the work they do and do whatever we can to help them stamp out the blight of domestic violence in our community.