The names stand out: Georgette Luckel, Jeannett Conwell, Celsa Bausista and Pamela LeRose.
These are just a few of Manatee County’s domestic violence victims. Their names grace Ed Miracle’s sculpture “Battered Women Syndrome.”
“It’s not getting any better,” Miracle, 70, said of domestic violence. “It’s only getting worse.”
The statue, which has been traveling around the bay area for the past year, is on display in the lobby of the Manatee County Administrative Center in downtown Bradenton. It will be there through the end of October, highlighting National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. The sculpture includes a number for Hope Family Services, one of 42 state certified agencies helping victims of domestic violence in Florida.
Miracle’s art depicts a battered woman in tattered clothes with bruises on her back and cracks on her face — as if she’s about to crumble. Yet she hides behind another face. One that’s calm, collected, without cracks, which she lifts up in front of her own.
She has to keep up appearances. But victims who hide their struggles could die without help.
The message Miracle wants to send through it: “Ladies should take advantage of what’s available to them,” he said. “Make that phone call. Hope doesn’t have all the answers, but they can give you more answers than anyone else.”
To help Miracle’s effort and reach out to women who suffer from abuse, often in silence, the University of South Florida Sarasota — Manatee will host “Battered Economy, Battered Women — The State of Domestic Violence” in the Selby Auditorium from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 15.
Cry for help lies in numbers
In 2008, Manatee County experienced 2,602 acts of domestic violence, including aggravated and simple assaults, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Neighboring Sarasota County reported 1,433. On the list was one Manatee murder — that of LeRose, who was shot several times outside of Peach’s Restaurant on Cortez Road by an ex-boyfriend.
And, just this week, police said Manatee resident Derek Adams was stabbed to death by his live-in girlfriend. He had a history of domestic violence, according to authorities. Overall, Florida had 113,123 domestic violence acts last year, which included 180 murders and 14 acts of manslaughter.
Nationally, up to 25 percent of all women will experience domestic violence in their life times, according to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
What staggers Hope’s executive director, Laurel Lynch, is 95 percent of Florida’s domestic violence homicide victims in 2005-’06 never sought help from a certified domestic violence center.
“The good news is that what we do works,” she said. “It’s not our clients that are getting killed. ... But the bad news is why didn’t we get that other 95 percent?”
Hope offers safety plans for victims experiencing various forms of domestic violence, including physical, psychological, sexual and economic abuse. The agency also provides shelter in its new $4 million, 35-bed facility in Bradenton, opening its doors to battered women and men. It also has free counseling and legal aid.
In 2008-2009, 254 local residents took advantage of its former 16-bed shelter. Hope also fielded more than 9,000 calls, offering help.
But Lynch knows there are other battered people out there, hiding behind a mask similar to Miracle’s sculpture.
“That is what we are tackling internally — how do we reach the people that need us?” she said.
January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.
How to get helpHope Family Services: (941) 747-8499
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate Unit: (941) 747-3011
Manatee Victim Rights Council: (877) 846-3435