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Michelle Pryor, mother of domestic violence and murder victim Lexus Williams, hugs Adriana Gonzalez, HomeSafe associate director of programs, after helping to plant a tree at Volunteer State Community College in honor of her late daughter on Oct. 24.

For Laura Givens, memories of the physical and mental abuse she endured for years during a past relationship are still painful to recount.

“There were times that I felt my life was threatened,” she said through tears. “There were times where I felt that my (daughters) were in danger, but I was too scared to speak up or do anything.

“Please do not be scared to ask for help. We are all in this together.”

Givens, a domestic violence survivor, shared her story with a crowd of more than 50 people who gathered for the Voices Against Violence program at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin recently.

The community awareness event, presented by HomeSafe and the college, was held in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Each year, 10 million Americans are physically abused by their partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The abuse accounts for 15 percent of all violent crimes that occur.

“Domestic violence impacts everyone within the family,” said HomeSafe Board of Directors member Glenda Barnett-Streicher, whose daughter was killed by her husband in 2007. “We have got to stand up, we have got to shout, we have got to speak up and stop letting it happen to our loved ones.

“In your immediate community, there is help.”

HomeSafe provides free and confidential services to individuals and their children who have been impacted by domestic and sexual abuse in Sumner, Robertson, and Wilson counties. The agency also operates a domestic violence helpline (615-452-4315) and a sexual assault helpline (615-454-0373). However, anyone in imminent danger should contact 911.

Last year, there were 73,568 domestic-related offenses that occurred in Tennessee, according to data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Of those victims, 71 percent were women.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s program, a tree was planted at Vol State in honor of the college’s former student and pre-nursing major Lexus Williams, who was fatally shot last year. The 22-year-old’s husband is accused of her murder. 

“My prayer is that for this tree, the roots will grow deep… the limbs will grow up and they will grow out and it will provide shade and a sense of security and shelter for others to have a conversation (about domestic violence) with a friend,” Mark Hammock said on behalf of the Williams family. “We have to fix this.”

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