Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Many Share Tales during Victims' Rights Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Many Share Tales during Victims' Rights Event

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

Many wiped tears from their cheeks as a sobbing woman stood behind a microphone on a stage in Spring Park and told how incest has caused seemingly unbearable pain and turmoil for her family.

"It broke my heart. It was very thought-provoking," said Cat Bowden, a member of the Clay County Sexual Assault Task Force. "I know this subject makes people uncomfortable and even angry. But that's good. That's what we want because then people will talk about it and try to do something to stop it."

Around the riverfront stage in Green Cove Springs, T-shirts decorated by crime victims were strung between trees.

It was the Clothesline Project in honor of Victims' Rights Week, sponsored locally by the Clay County Sexual Assault Task Force, which includes the Children's Crisis Center, Clay County Sheriff's Office, Green Cove Springs and Orange Park police departments, the State Attorney's Office and private practice therapists. The task force meets monthly to discuss how best to meet the needs of victims of sexual assault in the community.

Anonymous victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, incest, homicide and hate crimes painted pictures, poems, prayers and statements on T-shirts for display.

"It's a way of letting victims air their dirty laundry," said Sharon Youngerman, executive director of Quigley House, Clay's domestic violence shelter.

One T-shirt showed a picture of children crying as their father hit their mother. One said, "Rape Stole My Life," on the front, "I Got it Back," on the back.

More than 100 people, many law enforcement officers, sat or stood in Spring Park to hear crime victims share their struggles. Some of the speakers didn't want to give their names or be photographed.

One woman told how she finally left an abusive husband after 18 years, but said she and her sons live in fear that he'll find them and hurt them.

Some were sniffling or struck silent when one woman seemed to pour out her soul as she told her story. …

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