25th anniversary of tool created in KY for domestic violence survivors

The system was born out of tragedy. A Louisville woman's ex boyfriend killed her.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – It has been well documented, Kentucky has the highest rate of domestic violence in the country, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

It’s a troubling ranking advocacy groups reminded us of Monday as they gathered at the state capitol Monday.

“Half of Kentucky women have experienced physical violence, sexual violence, and, or, stalking during their lifetime,” Angela Yannelli, C-E-O of The Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said.

She said 35-percent of men have as well. It’s a startling reality that she says is likely worse than we know.

“We know that domestic violence is under-reported often due to a survivor’s fear of retaliation from their abuser,” Yannelli said.

It’s a well-founded fear. Retaliation is the reason Mary Byron, of Louisville, was murdered 25 years ago.

Byron’s ex-boyfriend was released from prison without her knowledge, even though the family says it requested updates.

Byron’s mother says there was only one way to describe the feeling.

“[We felt] powerless, because we didn’t understand it,” Pat Byron said.

Byron’s story is another part of the reason advocates met Monday; they recognized the 25th anniversary of a tool that was created after Byron’s death that has helped millions of  survivors – V.I.N.E., Victim Information and Notification Every Day.

Shortly after Byron’s death, her family successfully advocated for the program; it lets survivors know every judicial action taken involving their abuser.

Now, Governor Andy Beshear says 43 states use the system and it’s been improved over time.

“We’re forever grateful to this family for taking their personal tragedy and creating a system that helps so many other individuals,” Beshear said.

Despite strides in combating domestic violence, Kentucky still holds the top spot in the country. Advocates say education is a great tool that can be sharpened.

“Because it not only allows our younger generations to be able to recognize domestic violence, but to learn coping skills and how to avoid it in the future,” Andrea Robinson said. She’s the executive director of Oasis in Owensboro, a domestic violence shelter.

Yannelli adds tackling poverty and homelessness can help combat domestic violence as well.

If you, or someone else, needs help please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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