Tonawanda News

September 28, 2012

Event seeks to end abuse

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — For the third year, Erie County is drawing attention to domestic violence issues with an event planned at Isle View Park in the Town of Tonawanda. 

About 200 cyclists and others will gather there at 10 a.m. Saturday to raise awareness about the heart-wrenching problem of domestic violence in the third annual Break the Cycle Bike-a-Thon and Walk.

David Wisniewski, the brother of murder victim Jackie Wisniewski, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend and trauma surgeon Dr. Timothy Jorden on the grounds of the Erie County Medical Center in June, will be on hand to speak to the crowd. 

“We need to do a better job of protecting those who can not protect themselves,” Wisniewski said in a statement. 

The Erie County Commission on the Status of Women is the lead sponsor for the event. Executive Director Sawrie Becker said part of the reason for the event is to send a message of hope to victims past and present. 

"I think this year it's going to be even more powerful with the presence of David and several members of his family," Becker said. "I think it's an important opportunity to come together in her honor to hopefully carry on her spirit." 

Wisniewski's murder made national news after she was shot at the hospital and police searched for Jorden who they initially thought fled the country before finding his body in a wooded area where he shot himself.

Becker added that raising awareness about the predominance of domestic violence is foremost among the commission's goals, while opening up the doors to those who feel trapped in the sometimes untenable cycle of violence.  

More than 1.5 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States, according to the National Institute of Justice and Center for Disease Control, while about 1,000 are killed.  

Mary Travers Murphy runs the Family Justice Center of Erie County, a collaboration of 13 partner agencies that provides safety planning, counseling and other vital services to thousands of victims of domestic violence seeking to escape a violent relationship. Saturday's event will leave many of those individuals an avenue to heal. 

“The Wisniewski family is still grief stricken," she said. "But they are determined to re-write the ending of someone else’s story by speaking publicly and letting victims know they do not have to suffer alone or in silence." 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said community involvement is important in drawing attention to the issue, with the event kicking off the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. 

"The problem of domestic violence needs to be faced head on," he said in a statement. 

Becker said the initiative began after Aasiya Hassan was beheaded by her estranged husband inside their Orchard Park television studio in in 2009. Members of Western New York's Muslim community also will be in attendance, while internationally recognized human rights expert Dr. Shanaz Tejani-Butt will be the keynote speaker and will discuss how the community can tackle domestic violence. 

The event also will feature testimonial from a survivor of domestic violence. 

Registration is available online at Riders and walkers also can register the day of the event. The fee is $10 for ages 12 and up, $5 for children under 12, and $25 for a family of four.

More information for reporters on how to cover sensitive domestic violence stories is available on the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence website.

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.