Efforts to fight domestic violence - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Efforts to fight domestic violence

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She's a beauty queen, the reigning Miss Vermont, a nursing student, and philanthropist. Jeanelle Achee is also a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault.

"When I was young, around 8th grade, so really young, I was sexually assaulted by a boy in my hometown who was much older than me," said Achee.

She also suffered at home.

"Domestic violence was perpetrated by my father, and my mom is just this amazing woman who is just a champion and took me and my sisters and raised us."

Achee and other domestic violence survivors, advocates, and community leaders came together Saturday to speak out against domestic violence and sexual assault at a symposium at the Franklin Conference Center at the Howe in Rutland.

Domestic violence survivor and Thetford mother Carmen Tarleton will forever bear the scars left by the 2007 attack by her estranged husband who doused her with industrial lye, burning 80 percent of her body. But her incredible journey of recovery - including 55 surgeries and a face transplant - has prompted her to attend events like this inspiring others to overcome life's challenges.

"I've forgiven. I'm not a miserable person, you know and I'm not bitter and that makes a whole lot of difference in your happiness," said Carmen Tarleton.

108 homicides in Vermont since 1994 have been related to domestic violence. 19 of those have occurred in Rutland County. Domestic violence does not discriminate. Of Vermont's domestic violence fatalities - 46% were male victims.@

Advocates emphasize the best way to help victims of domestic violence is to keep it from happening in the first place.

"Domestic violence is predictable, so if it's predictable it's preventable," Said Marianne Kennedy of the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter.

That means making neighborhoods safer.

Capt. Scott Tucker of the Rutland City Police Department said, "As we reduce the fuel for the fire, which in our estimation is alcohol and other drugs, I believe that violence will decrease"

Businesses say they have a responsibility to take back the neighborhoods and keep people safe from attacks.

"In the northwest neighborhood in Rutland, GMP is piloting a project where street lights now, when they go out, they will instantly be notified that a street light is out and they can be fixed instantly," said Kristin Carlson of Green Mountain Power. 

As more efforts continue to fight domestic violence, the survivors in this group show that those who have suffered are not alone.

"Even though terrible things happen and it's not fair, and such, you can find the best in it," said Tarleton.

Miss Vermont Jeanelle Achee said, "In my family there has been a generational history of all of this which kind of shows what we are trying to fight against here, which is the cycle of violence."

Survivors coming together to let others know it's not their fault, they do not have to accept anything they don't want, and they are not the only ones.

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