At-risk domestic violence victims would receive alarms

June 16, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Dana's "living hell" started with jealousy and demands from her now ex-husband about what she should wear. It escalated to shoves and slaps and ended with a gun to her head.

Dana - who no longer is married to her abuser, but asked that her last name not be used - attended a press conference Wednesday in which representatives from the security company ADT announced that alarm systems will be installed and monitored for free in the homes of women who are most at risk of being harmed because of domestic violence.

The systems have been available to victims in Berkeley County, but now also will be offered to battered women in Jefferson and Morgan counties.


Along with a home alarm system, the women also will be provided with a pendant - the size of a Tic Tac mints container - that can be worn around one's neck. Pressing the pendant's button will send a silent alarm to an ADT representative, who then will notify local police agencies.

Area police agencies have agreed to treat such calls as priority calls, said Peter Gioe, ADT's sales and installation manager for the greater Washington, D.C., area.

One of the pendants has been credited with saving the life of Joy Yurish, whose husband was holding her inside her Martinsburg home at knifepoint on April 11.

After Yurish pushed her panic button, two West Virginia State Police troopers responded. They shot and killed Michael Yurish as he approached his estranged wife with a knife.

"We know that this program saves lives," Ann Smith, executive director of the Shenandoah Women's Center, said during the press conference, which was in the county's Dunn Building.

Statistics show that domestic violence is increasing.

"A woman is killed every 14 days in the state of West Virginia" in a domestic violence-related incident, Smith said.

Morgan County Prosecutor Debra McLaughlin said she sometimes hears a worry voiced by women who have been or might be battered.

"A protective order is just a piece of paper, many victims have expressed to me," McLaughlin said. "It's not going to protect them."

The alarms might help stop the generational effects of domestic violence - sons of violent men growing up to be abusers themselves, McLaughlin said.

Dana, who since has remarried "absolutely the most wonderful man," said the home alarm system and pendant should provide a sense of security for battered women.

She did not speak to the small crowd at the press conference, but agreed to be interviewed afterward.

She said she was married to her first husband for six years.

"He was Mr. Wonderful to begin with. (but) after about three years, the control started," she said.

One day, Dana said, she left him. She took a few articles of clothing with her and her son, who was 12 or 13 at the time, but now is an adult. The abuse happened while Dana was living in another state.

Dana said she went to a women's shelter, where she felt safe. It was when she left the shelter or the business she owned to go to a store or church that her fear started.

She dyed her hair and wore hoods or hats to try to avoid being spotted. Abusive men are "sneaky and cunning" and try to attack women when they are weak, she said.

"They show up unexpectedly, when you're off guard," she said.

Even now, more than a decade after leaving her former husband, Dana is not without fear. Sometimes, she becomes tense when she sees a man who resembles her ex-husband, or a car such as the one he drove, she said.

Dana said she nearly cried during the press conference.

"It hits my heart hard because I didn't have that. I lived with a baseball bat by my front door," she said. "This panic button is an absolutely wonderful idea."

Need help?

Battered women interested in having an alarm system installed in their homes must meet with a Shenandoah Women's Center outreach worker, and also must meet certain criteria.

The Shenandoah Women's Center has an office in each Eastern Panhandle county.

For more information, call 304-263-8522 in Berkeley County, 304-725-7080 in Jefferson County or 304-258-1078 in Morgan County.

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