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SPOTLIGHT
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Breaking the cycle of violence

Published on -10/10/2012, 1:20 PM

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In large and small communities across our country, too many Americans find themselves placed in danger by the very people who are supposed to love and protect them. Each year, more than 2 million women are victims of domestic violence across our country. In Kansas, an estimated one in 10 adult women will suffer from domestic abuse this year.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a reminder that we can help give a voice to the hopeless -- to those who are often too afraid to speak out for themselves. Domestic violence is not just a problem for women; children and men are all too often victims of abuse. Throughout October, we should be especially mindful of these victims and renew our commitment to put an end to this cycle of violence.

Many Kansans might assume that domestic violence does not occur in their neighborhoods or among their friends. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Domestic violence does not discriminate by race, gender, age, education or social status. And four years ago, the citizens of Hays learned of the tragic death of a young woman from domestic violence.

I have spoken on the floor of both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to share the story of Jana Lynne Mackey with my colleagues. Today, I'd like to share Jana's story with you. It bears repeating because it is a solemn reminder of the urgent need to put an end to this so-called "silent crime" that plagues hundreds of thousands of homes across our country.

Jana was born in 1982 in Harper and spent her childhood in Hays. She was an active member of 4-H, an athlete, and a talented musician. After graduating from high school, Jana completed a bachelor's degree, where she discovered her passion -- advocating on behalf of others. She went on to pursue a law degree from the University of Kansas and fought for equality and social justice through her work with countless organizations, including volunteer work in Lawrence at the GaDuGi SafeCenter - a shelter that aids victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. But four years ago, on July 3, 2008, at the young age of 25, Jana's own life was taken by domestic violence.

More than 1,100 people gathered together at Jana's memorial service in Lawrence to celebrate her life. After her death, Jana's parents, Curt and Christie Brungardt, started the "Eleven Hundred Torches" campaign to encourage 1,100 people to carry on Jana's torch by dedicating their lives to serving others. They reached their goal in one year, and today the Brungardts are focused on their non-profit organization, Jana's Campaign, Janascampaign.org, which is dedicated to stopping domestic and dating violence. Yet there is more work left to be done.

Throughout our country, an estimated one in four women will suffer abuse during her lifetime. Domestic violence brings fear, hopelessness and depression into the lives of every victim. We must not only work to end domestic violence, but also care for those who have become victims. Every citizen can find a way to get involved and make a difference, whether by volunteering at a local shelter, making a donation to a local organization, or speaking out when you become aware of domestic violence.

If you see signs of abuse in a relationship, let the victim know you care and are concerned about their safety. Many victims say fear, shame and embarrassment are powerful barriers to their seeking help. If you express your concern, it may help them to break their silence and seek the assistance they need.

And if you need help, please call the Kansas Crisis Hotline at (888) 363-2287 -- a toll-free, 24-hour crisis hotline that links victims of domestic violence with crisis programs across the state. The hotline offers confidential support and can help with everything from crisis intervention to connecting you with community programs and women's shelters that can help victims re-establish their lives without violence.

The tragedy of Jana's death is a rallying cry, calling each of us to do what we can to make a difference in the lives of others. This October, and throughout the year, let us be mindful of the victims of domestic violence and let us be a torch to help break the cycle of violence and bring hope to those who suffer.

Sen. Jerry Moran represents Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

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