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Deaths highlight dangers of domestic violence

JSO, Hubbard House begin Domestic Violence Awareness Month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly 5,000 purple flags are on display at the Duval County Courthouse to represent the domestic violence incidents reported this year and those that went unreported.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, there were 18 domestic violence-related murders in Duval County in 2014. So far this year, there have been 13, JSO said.

Of the cases this year, eight were adults killed by a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, and three involved a child killing a parent or grandparent, police said.

The numbers were announced Thursday as part of a joint campaign with Hubbard House, a domestic violence shelter in Jacksonville, to mark the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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As of Sept. 22 there have been more than 4,000 reported incidents of domestic violence in Duval County this year, down from more than 5,000 this time last year. But Undersheriff Pat Ivey said the city needs to get those numbers down even more.

"Ladies and gentlemen if this keeps up we are on track to equal last year's (death) numbers and frankly that is unacceptable," Ivey said.

National statistics show that every nine seconds a woman is abused in the U.S. An average of 20 people are physically abused by a partner every minute. That equates to 10 million abuse victims each year. One in five women and one in 18 men report they have been stalked.

"We have had an increase in domestic violence. Nationally, our statistics have now jumped to one in three women and one in four men," said Kristi Brandon with Hubbard House.

A mother and father were killed in a murder-suicide in June in Oceanway. Police say Daniel Blair shot and killed his long-time girlfriend, 29-year-old Stephanie LeClerc. Blair then turned the gun on himself.

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LeClerc's father said there were never any signs of domestic violence, but he said he believed the two were fighting before the shooting.

In another case, a 14-year-old Jacksonville boy is accused of killing his mother. Mitchell Daughtry will be tried as an adult.

It's tragedies like these that Hubbard House is working to prevent by keeping the conversation about domestic violence going, because many times domestic violence is kept a secret.

"The people who come through our doors, they're told where to go. They're told what to wear, what to eat and in some cases, they are even kept in closets to keep them from going to their jobs," said Brandon.

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Another woman shared her story with the audience at the news conference Thursday. Kimyetta Taylor (pictured) was painfully honest about what life was like during her abusive marriage.

"I would go to work with black eyes and broken blood vessels," she said. "On one occasion, my ex-husband beat me so bad that I fell to the floor and then he proceeded to kick me in my back."

She said she couldn't walk for two months.

Taylor said that relationship lasted a decade before she found the strength to change her situation.

"That was four years ago. I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor," Taylor said. "I'm taking back my pride. I'm taking back my spirit. I'm taking back me and also my life. I am now born again."

Hubbard House wants women to know that they have options and they're not alone.

"What they need to understand is that there are people who will help protect them, develop safety plans with them and that without help it can and probably will get much worse to the point of death," Hubbard House COO Gail Patin said.

Taylor agreed and said more than anything she wants victims of domestic violence to know they can overcome fear and become survivors.

"They do have -- they have the courage inside of them, and they can make it through this," Taylor said.

Hubbard House said it's not just about the victims speaking out, but also friends, family and coworkers doing what they can to help, whether it is offering a safe place for victims to stay or make a phone call, or by giving information about making an escape plan.

For more information on ways to help victims of domestic violence, go to http://www.hubbardhouse.org/contact.

The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence also operates a 24-hour hotline so victims of domestic violence can find resources across the state. The hotline number is 1-800-500-1119.


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