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Addressing domestic violence in Fairfax County

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One of the best days of Laura Morris’ life was standing on a mountain top in France with her son and husband. It almost didn’t happen. Thirty-eight years before that day, she was shot by her ex-husband.

“As anyone who has been in any sort of abusive situation will tell you, you don’t start out being abused,” Morris told attendees at a meeting sponsored by the Respect Life Committee at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria Oct. 28 during domestic violence awareness month.

“It starts out with a few bad words, you maybe get a push or a shove, then it turns into punches, slaps and potentially you can be murdered like I almost was,” she said.

Morris’ ex-husband abused drugs and alcohol, bought a gun and kept her isolated from friends and family. They had a child, who happened to be with his grandparents the night Morris was shot. She stayed but after her ex bought a bigger gun and continued threatening her, she found her way out.

“Things were bad for a while, but they eventually got better,” she said.  

Morris, sharing the different types of domestic violence — physical, verbal, sexual, financial and psychological abuse — said 52 women are shot and killed by their partner every month. She said 19 percent of domestic violence involves a weapon.

“In at least 54 percent of mass shootings, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member,” she said. “Between 2009 and 2018, 80 percent of child victims of mass shootings died in incidents connected to domestic or family violence.”

Tracy Hundley, resource and operations supervisor at ShelterHouse in Alexandria, shared about the shelter and its resources for domestic violence victims in Fairfax County.

“The goal is to bring more awareness in the community,” she said. “It’s the only 24/7 domestic violence shelter in Fairfax County.”

The shelter provides emergency housing, safety planning, crisis intervention, case management, and individual and group counseling.

Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general and pastor of Good Shepherd, said domestic violence is a concern of the church.
“We hope that by raising awareness of this issue, it will be one more step to making sure that everybody's dignity is always recognized and respected,” he said. “And where it's compromised, that we as a church are aware of the need to be attentive to the needs of others and be able to reach out and assist them.”

Find out more


Contact ShelterHouse at 703/435-4940 or go to shelterhouse.org. 



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019