Oct. 2—LUMBERTON — The Southeastern Family Violence Center celebrated 40 years of service by starting Domestic Violence Awareness Month and painting Robeson County purple on Friday.
Staff members at the Center travelled across the county installing purple ribbons and flags, and signage to municipal buildings. The group began in Lumberton where the installations were placed at the Lumberton Police and Fire departments, the Robeson County Administrative Office, Lumberton City Hall, the Robeson County Courthouse and Lumber River United Way.
"It's our 40th year and this is the first time we've painted the county purple," said Emily Locklear, the center's executive director. "We're based in Lumberton but we service this whole county so we wanted to paint the county, not the just the city."
Purple is the national color for domestic violence awareness.
"We hope this sparks conversation," Locklear said. "Hopefully someone will say 'What's the purple for?' and someone will be educated enough to say 'it's for domestic violence awareness.' We want to spark conversation that will lead people to get out."
Domestic violence continues to be on the rise nationally, statewide and locally. Southeastern Family Violence Center provided services to 1,520 individuals in 2020, an increase of 9% from the previous year, according to the director. More than 7% were youth under the ages of 17, and another 7% were elders above the age of 60.
"The numbers definitely have been on the rise and that's due to the isolation that a lot of our victims face," Locklear said. "With COVID, the stay-at-home and the mandate to stay at place, it escalated."
For a time, the closing of courthouses also prevented restraining orders to be issued, Locklear said.
More than 34% of the victims services were in Lumberton, 6.8% from Pembroke, 3.7% from Fairmont, 4.6% in St. Pauls, 7% from Maxton, 4.1% from Red Springs, 3.1% in Rowland, 24.3% from other communities, 11.7% were homeless.
Seventy-eight adults and 63 children used the Center's safe house to escape an abusive relationship. More than 4,660 nights of safe shelter were provided to victims of domestic violence and homeless individuals.
Locklear said that most people see domestic violence as just physical abuse, but the abuse can be sexual, emotional and financial.
"We just have multiple contributors and factors in our county that are a part of the domestic violence cycle," Locklear said.
The Southeastern Family Violence Center provides a "valuable service to the county," said Robeson County Manager Kellie Blue. She said that it's a "good gesture" providing visuals to buildings that receive a lot of the foot traffic in Robeson County.
"To actually see it is a constant reminder that those things are going and this is a service that's viable to our county," Blue said.
Chief District Court Angelica Chavis-McIntyre knows firsthand the need to have awareness of the domestic violence, seeing many cases from behind the bench.
"Our most violent crimes in Robeson County tend to be domestic-violence related and so if we can put resources in place to prevent things before they reach a level where someone is seriously injured or killed, I think everybody should support that," Chavis-McIntyre said.
The violence center does a lot here in Robeson County for domestic violence — aiding victims, providing resources, providing programs, Chavis-McIntyre said.
"They assist with our restraining orders so they're a very powerful force here in the county for victim of domestic violence," she added. "Domestic violence is something that effects everybody no matter of your socioeconomic status, your race gender, it goes across all of those things so bringing awareness on how we can prevent domestic violence from happening, what to do if you're involved in that situation, how to help children that are involved in households with domestic violence, is very important."
Although domestic violence is so common in the area, awareness is still needed.
"Being here 40 years, I still get people who say they don't know what we do and that this agency is here to help. It's very important for our community to know that we are here and that we can provide assistance. It doesn't matter. We don't discriminately, no race, no color, economic status, domestic violence knows no boundaries and so we're here to serve everyone."
On Oct. 21, the Violence Center will hold a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died from domestic violence. The event will be held at 6 p.m. at the Lumberton Downtown Plaza.
Anyone experiencing domestic violence can call the center's 24-hour crisis line at 910-739-8622 or toll free at 1-800-742-7794. The Southeastern Family Violence Center is located at 1407 E. Fifth St. in Lumberton.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.