There were 196 domestic violence murders in 2018 in Florida.
Five of those were in Volusia County, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The usual method of death in these cases is strangulation.
Crime records also show 16,000 aggravated assaults for domestic violence in Florida last year with 593 were in Volusia. Again the majority of incidents involved choking of the victim, but they survived.
“Some survivors of domestic abuse leave the household with just the clothes on their backs,” according to the CEO of Beacon Center Angie Pye.
Beacon Center, formerly the Domestic Abuse Council, has a shelter and outreach program for victims of domestic violence. Ms. Pye has been an advocate for victims in Volusia for more than 20 years. She came from an abusive household when she was a child and is passionate about her role now.
Her agency offers help on a crisis hotline 24/7. They advertise the shelter and outreach program in women’s public restrooms, in churches, offices and businesses. There a woman can have privacy to consider what is going on in her relationship.
The flyer reads in part, does the person you love:
•“Track” all of your time?
•Constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?
•Discourage your relationships with family and friends?
•Anger easily when drinking or on drugs?
•Hit, punch, slap, kick or bite you?
•You are not alone.
At the bottom of the flyer is the phone number, (386) 255-2102, for the Beacon Center. The help they will receive is free and confidential.
There are success stories. One that sticks out is Lara, a former victim who was able to turn her life around and became an attorney, at the center.
“It was my dream job and at first I couldn’t believe I could do it,” Lara said.
Now she is one of three attorneys helping women who come through the local program.
Lara now spends her time getting restraining orders against the abusers and also in court being an advocate for the victims. “I know what it’s like, because I’ve been there before.” Her husband physically and sexually abused her.
“I remember the time my husband raped me,, she said. “Then he called a friend over and he raped me, too.”
She does not always tell this part of her story, but she wants other women out there to know they’re not alone.
Like many victims, she blamed herself for the abuse. “If I hadn’t looked at him a certain way, then the abuse wouldn’t have happened,” she told herself.
The support groups at Beacon Center helped her to stop thinking that way and find confidence.
“I realized I was not worthless like he kept telling me,” Lara said. “I was worthy. Worthy enough to go to law school, take the bar and become an attorney.
“I’m happy now to show women there is hope for them,” she said. “My story has a happy ending.”
She has remarried and will have a baby girl in August.
The Beacon Center shelter has 60 beds for women and children. Many times the children have been abused, too. The average age of children at the shelter is 5. The average age of victims is 35. The average stay for a victim is 85 days. Some of them are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The goal of Beacon Center is to get women safe,” Ms. Pye said. “The culture of domestic violence is rooted in sexism. Because men get away with the violence because some women are afraid to fight the system, society, in essence, allows the behavior to happen. Domestic violence is actually a hate crime.”
And, Ms. Pye said, “Society also blames the victims, thinking why can’t you control your man? It is similar to the crime of rape where again the victim is blamed. What behavior did the victim have to be raped? What did she do to deserve that?”
“We must work on these issues to really solve the problem of domestic violence,” she said.
She is hoping someone or some group will donate office space for her center. Right now the offices for 10 employees are at the shelter.
“I’d like to use the office space for more beds for the women,” she said. “We are just crowded where we are now. Ideally the new space would be in Daytona Beach.”
For more information, visit beaconcenter.com.