By Sarah Samuels – WUFT-FM
The Marion County Children’s Alliance is hosting its first Walk of Hope Saturday morning to raise awareness of domestic violence — an increasingly common problem in Marion County.
In the past three years, the county averaged about 3,000 reported cases, said Monica Bryant, a family violence prevention coordinator. This year, there are already more than 2,700 cases.
But abusive relationships never start out that way, so it’s important that the Children’s Alliance show women there is always a way out of a violent situation, she said.
“They start off with the candy, the flowers and all that,” she said. “What we have learned is that sometimes we attract different types of men or what we grow up with in our household. Kids who grow up in an abusive home are 60 percent more likely to become an abuser or repeat that behavior.”
More than 500 participants have registered for the free walk. People can also register Saturday morning.
Participants can park at the College of Central Florida, 3001 SW College Road, and SunTran will take them to the start of the race at the Ocala Police Department.
The 3.2-mile walk, which begins at 8:30 a.m., will raise money for victims of domestic violence. Before the walk, a ceremony will be held at 8 a.m. to honor victims.
Information about domestic violence will also be available.
The Children’s Alliance didn’t expect as many participants as it has registered because abuse is a tough topic for some, Bryant said.
“It’s something we keep to ourselves,” she said. “We want to keep (it) hidden.”
One woman who wanted to learn more about the walk revealed that she was a victim of domestic violence.
“She said, ‘My husband is in jail. He beat me. I’m living in a tent.’ She’s living on 441,” Bryant said. “And she said, ‘The place where he beat me at is where I’m staying. He’s gonna be getting out of jail, and I have no help. I have no resources.'”
The Children’s Alliance was able to help the woman and placed her in a motel.
“Now we’re working to try to get her a bus ticket to Maine where her family is, so when he gets out of jail, she won’t be here,” Bryant said.
Bryant said she hopes participants in the Walk of Hope will also attend the Marion County Children’s Alliance Night of Hope on Sept. 28.
Hana Engroff edited this story online.