Survivors lead the way in the Mayor's March on Domestic Violence

Published: Oct. 6, 2019 at 7:00 PM CDT
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There were over 2,800 orders of protection sought out in Rockford in 2018. Sunday those survivors marched together in downtown Rockford to raise awareness.

"There's survivors in every room you go to across the city," says Mayor Tom McNamara. "If you're in your church, or if you're at your favorite restaurant there's survivors."

McNamara says his passion for fixing the life-threatening issue comes from listening to survivors. He says it's marches like Sunday's that serve as a starting point.

"Today helps drive us and hold us accountable to say 'hey, you can't just keep marching, you have to have progress each and every year."

He says part of 2019's progress is moving forward with plans for the Family Peace Center, a trauma informed facility to help survivors with shelter and legal aid.

The plans for that structure come after last years spike in violent crimes. In 2018 35 percent of Rockford's violent crime was domestic related, and 75 percent of the youth committing those crimes were victims, or exposed to domestic violence.

"That crime has to stop," says McNamara. "And we can stop it, if we know what that crime is we know how to stop it we must now stop it."

"Voices" is a group of survivors that led the way at the march, which is something new this year. Some spoke of near-death experiences with their abusers, and shared how they found hope and light in life.

"It's not normal, and it's not right," says Sandra Schaefer, whose daughter is a survivor. "We all deserve love, and violence isn't part of it."

Schaefer held a sign reading "children learn by example" to show the impact violence has on a child's development. My daughter is getting her life together and she's very passionate about this," she tells 23 News. "They don't have to go [through] it alone. Just look around, look at all the support."

The two mile march stopped at key places throughout the city that survivors visit to get help. Some of those places include City Hall, the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic and the courthouse.

"We're stopping at various locations to show everyone that these survivors, we are asking them through our best efforts to stop at far too many locations," says McNamara. "We make it too difficult for them to get the services that they need, it should be all in one place."

He says that's why they are developing the Family Peace Center. The first phase will be open within the first quarter of 2020.