LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Wednesday for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Center for Women and Families honored the lives of 19 people in Kentuckiana who died due to domestic or intimate partner violence in 2022 with their annual event "Speak Their Names."
Elizabeth Wessels-Martin, the organization's president, said this year they were honoring nearly double the number of people than the year before.
“The number as it stands right now is awful, but what’s even scarier is we have three more months of this year," she said. “It’s time to talk about domestic violence loudly and openly; no more whispers, no more closed doors.”
Wessels-Martin encouraged people to speak out and share their stories, and to engage with family members and friends about domestic violence and the resources available.
Before the empty chairs and flowers honoring the victims, survivor Amber Ross shared her own story for the first time.
“We cannot keep quiet anymore, I am not silent anymore," she said before the crowd of supporters and family members of those who died.
Ross is a mother of two boys, a community mentor and a Louisville Metro Police officer.
She said in part because of her job there was a lot of shame surrounding her story, and it made her keep it private for a long time.
“You have to heal before you can speak out," Ross said. "I am not a person meant to be silent, I’m a person God has made to tell their story.”
Ross described meeting her former partner in 2015, and being physically abused within six months. She described the ways in which she said she was manipulated and put down, while violence against her continued for five years.
“The same person abusing you is consoling you," she said. "Just think about that, they’re abusing you and consoling you.”
Ross said with the encouragement of a therapist, and after a lot of research and learning, she finally left.
"I love me, I love all of me, every bit of me and no one will ever be able to strip that away from me ever again," she said of her mindset.
She shared words of encouragement for other people in similar situations.
“People like that don’t love you, you have got to get out, and that is coming from someone who was in that," Ross said.
Ross spoke about the importance of speaking up for yourself, as well as for others. She encouraged them to use the resources available, such as the Center for Women and Families.
The Center is the only domestic violence and rape crisis center in its nine-county Kentuckiana service area.
Help is available 24/7 at 1-844-BE-SAFE-1 (1-844-237-2331).
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