Panelists encourage victims of violence to step forward

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Panelists from Clovis and Portales used a forum on Thursday evening to encourage victims of domestic violence to step forward.

It took Debbie Vinson, a former victim of domestic violence, more than eight years to do it, but she did it.

Professionals who deal with domestic violence victims answered questions from audience members to try to create awareness of the problem during the forum at Becky Sharp Auditorium on the Eastern New Mexico University campus.

Vinson recounted a time when her ex-husband pointed a gun at her head. Vinson’s son was 4 years old and asleep while Vinson held her 7-month-daughter in her arms during the incident.

“He pointed the gun at me while I held her,” Vinson said. “I remember a flash and a ringing in my ear. It’s something that stays with you.”

Vinson said the pop and smell of fireworks makes her break out in hives because it is a reminder of that day. Vinson said it started out as emotional abuse and then led to physical abuse.

“I was just as much to blame,” Vinson said about not reporting the domestic violence initially. “I had hopes that there would be recovery or it would just stop.”

Vinson said it took her 8 1/2 years into her relationship to do something about it and get a divorce. Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said Vinson is a strong person for doing what she did. Chandler said an obstacle victims face is the embarrassment of the situation.

“I have not met anybody who is not embarrassed with what’s going on,” Chandler said. “To be able to tell a jury and complete strangers is tough.”

“If I ever did know somebody (a victim of domestic violence), I would tell them to get help,” said Ashley Cruz, an ENMU student and audience member.

Chandler said it is vital to report domestic violence incidents quickly for evidence-gathering purposes.

Panelist and 1st Lt. Tracy Markle of Cannon Air Force Base said the justice system is directed more toward rehabilitation than prosecution. Often those convicted are sentenced to intervention or substance abuse programs.

Charlie Smart, a deputy with the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department, said he’s seen instances in which the aggressor isolates the victim from the outside world. He said in those cases there is no television and no radio in the household.

A similar forum on domestic violence beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.