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Balloon launch honors domestic violence victims

ROSCOMMON – Officials for Kirtland Community College and River House Inc. helped honor victims of domestic violence with a balloon launch ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the college’s main campus near Roscommon.

Students, staff, faculty members and others gathered outside the college’s Student Center and released 51 balloons during the ceremony, each tagged with the name of a person who died as the result of domestic violence in the past year.

“This helps raise awareness about domestic violence,” said Jerry Boerema, associate dean of instruction and director of public safety at Kirtland. “By your presence, it shows your concern on the issue of domestic violence.”

Boerema read the crowd a variety of statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning domestic violence, including:

  • Almost six times as many women victimized by intimate partners (18 percent) and those victimized by strangers (3 percent) did not report their violent victimization to police because they feared reprisal from the offender;
  • A child exposed to the father abusing the mother is at the strongest risk for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next;
  • One in five female high school students reports being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner;
  • Violence is the reason stated for divorce in 22 percent of middle-class marriages;
  • It is estimated that 25 percent of workplace problems such as absenteeism, lower productivity, turnover and excessive use of medical benefits are due to family violence; and
  • Nearly 25 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime.

Boerema said people who know of a victim of domestic violence to speak up or reach out, rather than be silent.

“Ask what you can do to help,” he said.

Kriss Goodroe, executive director at the Grayling-based River House Inc., a non-profit agency that serves victims and survivors of homelessness, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Crawford, Ogemaw, Oscoda and Roscommon counties, said such somber ceremonies are also a time of celebration.

“I think of this is just not a time where we remember the victims,” Goodroe said. “It’s the same time we celebrate the survivors.”

Goodroe added one of River House’s focuses is to help turn more victims into survivors by helping provided support service, including shelter, in the local four-county area.

“We’re out there,” she said. “We’re in your communities.”

Besides the balloon launch, Kirtland officials also marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a coat drive, “Make A Difference Day” on Oct. 24 and the Empty Bowls Art Show and Reception on Oct. 28.

Annually, about 3,200 students attend a variety of certificate and two-year degree programs at Kirtland’s three locations – near Roscommon, and the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC) in Gaylord and in West Branch – with the college’s service area including all or parts of Crawford, Oscoda, Ogemaw, Roscommon, Otsego, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Gladwin and Alcona counties, and the surrounding areas.

For more information on Kirtland, persons visit online at www.kirtland.edu or call 989-275-5000, extension 284. Or, for details on River House Inc., visit www.riverhouseshelter.org.