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Names of 92 victims of domestic violence read at ceremony at Capitol

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — More than 90 Pennsylvanians died in domestic violence-related homicides since last October, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV), which joined today with legislators, administration officials, local domestic violence programs, survivors and their families to read aloud the names of each victim.

The third annual victim commemoration was held inside the state Capitol’s Main Rotunda as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which runs throughout October. The white marble columns of the state Capitol Building will be cast in purple lights Oct. 17-23 to mark the month.

Since October 2015, 92 victims have been killed in Pennsylvania in domestic violence-related homicides. The victims were women, men and children of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. More than half were killed with firearms.

Participants in the commemoration read aloud the name of each victim during a roll-call ceremony, which included remarks by Jeanette Hall, mother of Karlie Hall, who was murdered Feb. 8, 2015, while attending college in Millersville, Lancaster County.

Karlie’s sisters, Kristen and Katelyn, also joined the event to lead a moment of silence and place the last puzzle on a mosaic, respectively. The names of every victim are displayed on jigsaw pieces on the mosaic to symbolize the interlocking impact that domestic violence has on individuals, families and communities. The mosaic will be on display in the Capitol all month.

“Domestic violence affects one in four women, one in seven men and more than 90,000 Pennsylvanians annually. That means you are likely to know someone who has been physically, emotionally, sexually, economically or materially abused or stalked by a partner,” said Peg J. Dierkers, executive director of PCADV, which marks its 40th anniversary in November.

Since 1976, PCADV has been a community lifeline for domestic violence victims and their families, providing shelter, legal assistance, counseling and children’s services to more than 2.8 million people. PCADV has grown from nine community-based domestic violence programs in 1976 to 60 centers today serving all 67 counties assisting 90,000 victims per year, helping them find safety, obtain justice and build new lives free of abuse.

“These grim statistics and these tragic cases should serve as reminders that domestic violence is everyone’s problem — and that a community approach is needed to raise awareness, prevent occurrences and keep victims safe in Pennsylvania. It’s time to say NO MORE,” Dierkers said.

Each year, PCADV tracks and reports on domestic violence-related fatalities in Pennsylvania. In calendar year 2015, the last year for which there is a full report, there were 146 deaths, which included 113 victims and 33 perpetrators. PCADV’s annual “Fatality Report” has been the single most reliable source for domestic violence-related homicides in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years.

Dierkers noted that PCADV has been a strong advocate for legislation that would protect victims and help law enforcement and advocates.

Even with only a few session days remaining, one important piece of legislation is poised for action. House Bill 1581 would elevate intentional strangulation to a felony and give prosecutors a tool to protect victims. Non-fatal strangulation is a tactic that abusers use to terrorize victims. Yet, prosecutors lack the ability to criminalize strangulation. Thirty-seven states and a U.S. territory already have laws that define strangulation.

House Bill 1581 passed the House in April 2016 and now is pending in Senate.

PCADV also is advocating for Senate Bill 1182 as a way to prevent domestic violence homicide by taking firearms out of the hands of convicted abusers. Anyone subject to a final protection from abuse order or convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence would be ordered to relinquish their guns and store them with law enforcement or a federal firearms dealer. This will bring Pennsylvania law into alignment with existing federal law. The legislation will be re-introduced in January 2017 during the new legislative session.

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SOURCE: PA Coaltion Against Domestic Violence