Speaking at the fifth annual butterfly release at Ray Charles Plaza on Monday, Silke Deeley, executive director of the Liberty House, called for people to get involved when they suspect domestic abuse.
ALBANY, Ga. — For the fifth straight year, butterflies were released at the riverside as a symbolic reminder of victims of domestic violence.
“Releasing the butterflies is something we do to honor both the victims and survivors of domestic violence,” Silke Deeley, executive director of Liberty House, said. “At the Liberty House we try to promote awareness and educate people about those kinds of issues.”
Just before the brightly color insects were set free, the names of 81 Georgians who died in the previous 12 months because of domestic abuse were read to the group gathered for the ceremony launching Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Possibly because of the cooler weather, some of the delicate insects were reluctant to leave their cardboard box and needed a solid thump to the bottom of the box for encouragement.
Deeley, whose organization provides refuge for victims of domestic violence, said that one of the most important, yet difficult, things in reducing the occurrence of domestic violence is convincing people to act.
“When people are playing really loud music in your neighborhood, what do you do? You call the police,” Deeley said. “And yet, if someone hears or sees evidence of their neighbors being abused, they may not do anything at all. If you close the blinds it’s like it’s not really happening.”
According to Deeley, domestic violence is a “control” issue, which often has its origins one or more generations earlier. That is, the abuser may have been abused by a parent, sibling or other individual.
Abuse also can take a number of forms, Deeley said, and may not be limited to physical violence.
“It’s about power, really,” Deeley said. “Abusers may belittle their victims by abusing them in front of their children. Often they will kill or threaten to kill a favorite pet in order to punish their victims or to have their way. Anyone who is willing to injure or kill a pet isn’t very far from doing the same to a person.”
Deeley said that it’s important to break the “chain of abuse,” where victims become abusers in later relationships.
“We have to stop the cycle of abuse before it becomes ingrained,” Deeley said. “If you witness something that’s just not right, then call the police. If the victim seems willing, then let her know there is help.”
Deeley mentioned the charge brought against Albany Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver. Weaver has been suspended from the city court bench pending the outcome of his aggravated assault case. Investigators have accused him of hitting his wife with a beer bottle last May. Weaver’s wife, Vester Weaver, has publicly denied that her husband struck her.
“She (Vester Weaver) recanted those charges despite all the evidence against him,” Deeley said. “I think she did because she had a lot to lose. Who knows what he said to her? Maybe she had a lot to lose financially. We don’t know. The message here is that if he gets away with that, then where does that leave the rest of us?”