By Wendy Holdren
Breaking the silence is the most important way to stop domestic violence and that message was heard loud and clear from the documentary “The Children Next Door” Thursday night at The Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre.
The Women’s Resource Center hosted the screening as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in effort to shine a light on the devastating effects domestic violence can have on children.
Although Chelsea Waldroup, 17, the eldest of the Wauldroup children featured in the film, could not attend the screening, she said she was there in spirit.
“It has been my biggest goal for the past year to share the secret and get the word out in every way I can about domestic violence and what it does to the children in those families,” Chelsea said in a statement which was read to the audience Thursday night.
“I’m so happy to have that chance to ‘speak out’ even though I’m not there personally.”
She said when most people think about domestic violence, they think about the man and the woman, the victim and the abuser.
They think of the fear, pain, screaming, fighting, bruises and crying, but rarely do they think about the children.
“Even worse than all the violence against my mother was the fact that my siblings and I had began to think it was normal.”
She said in her eyes, her father was the most perfect person in the world, but to her mother, he was the reason she couldn’t sleep at night.
“A simple conversation between the two would escalate into an argument, which in turn would lead to new bruises on my mother’s body. At 6 years old, I believe this was how all families were.”
Chelsea said even though her experience was a horrible and devastating one, she is now doing her part to break the cycle, to be come an advocate for domestic violence and break the silence.
“Every child and teen of domestic violence needs to know what I now know — that no matter what situation you have been in and what you’ve been going through, your future is your and only you determine how bright it is.”
She said awareness is the only way to change the statistics. She encourages everyone to talk about the issues and make a difference.
Chelsea, her other two sisters and her brother had to witness the violent relationship between their parents, Penny and Brad Waldroup, who had also been children of domestic violence.
Although the two tried themselves to break the cycle, Brad’s outbursts culminated one night when he attacked Penny with a gun and a machete and murdered her best friend, all in front of their children.
The documentary showed how severely Penny was injured, with gashes and blood all over her entire body. Their family still struggles with the events of that night, but they have made it their mission to take a stand and help break this violent cycle.
Many of the audience members had tear-stained cheeks after the credits rolled on the heart-wrenching story.
A panel of experts, including Beckley Police Department Cpt. C.D. Mullens, Raleigh County Family Court Judge Louise G. Staton, and Youth Advocacy Center and survivor of domestic violence Roger Lockridge, answered audience questions following the screening.
Cpt. Mullens said that in Beckley, 90 calls of domestic violence are received per month, and Judge Staton said the court has 30 to 40 domestic violence petition hears each week.
“We consider children victims 100 percent of the time,” Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Patricia Bailey said.
“We served 3,200 victims in Raleigh, Fayette, Summers and Nicholas counties.”
The panel said that drugs and poverty will increase the risk, but domestic violence affects all socio-economic situations.
“We must look at this issue globally, not just locally,” WRC Shelter Case Manager and Domestic Violence Advocate Lynda Jensen said.
Bailey said that West Virginia used to rank No. 14 in the number of domestic violence related homicides in the nation, but now our state ranks No. 8.
Lockridge, who was a survivor of domestic violence himself, said his mother had obvious signs of domestic violence and she even worked at a hospital, but no one asked her about her struggles.
“I felt weak and defenseless because I couldn’t help my mother. That was 22 years ago and I still struggle today.”
Lockridge said that although children of domestic violence are three times as likely to repeat the cycle, it’s not guaranteed.
“The cycle can be broken. I’m an example of that.”
For more information about domestic violence and how you can help, visit www.cdv.org.
For more information about the Women’s Resource Center, contact Dee Sizemore at 304-255-2559.