Counselors urge domestic violence victims to seek help sooner

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email | facebook
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – The man charged with murder in connection to Monday morning's hostage situation in Henrico's West End is behind bars without bond. Antonio Farris was appointed an attorney in court this morning. He is facing first degree murder and firearms charges and will be back in court in April.

Domestic violence counselors say something positive can come out of Monday's tragedy. They are hoping more victims will feel empowered to get help before violence escalates.

Our cameras were rolling as this dramatic scene unfolded -- a mother and her two children escaping a horrifying ordeal. 24-year-old Ryan Chhuom is dead; Antonio Farris - charged with his murder. A woman who worked with all three people involved says Farris and the woman had been living together until she moved out over the weekend. Chhuom, she says, was just trying to help as a friend.

Friends say there were some warning signs, but they were still shocked by what happened. Becky Lee with the YWCA says unfortunately that's not unusual.

"Using this example that happened yesterday, nobody thought ahead of time that it would end in the kind of tragedy that it ended yesterday," Lee said.

Studies show a similar and disturbing pattern with domestic related homicides.

"What we find is that there's been very little interaction with services or support, or the police prior to that sort of ultimate tragedy," she said.

In fact, most cases of domestic violence are unreported.

"What we want more than anything is for people to reach out before things get so bad, so that they have help they're asking for, is not so hard to ask for," Lee explained.

Counselors we spoke with say the most important message they want victims to hear is you don't have to call the police if you feel that's too extreme. Call a family member, a friend, or reach out to a number of resources right here in our region like the YWCA or Safe Harbor.

"We have an incredible system in this region; we all work together; we communicate back and forth. No one is going to make a victim do something in particular in order to get support," Lee said.

Lee has some advice for people who want to help others in trouble.

"Don't step up into the middle of something that is problematic, but what we really need to do is reach out the victims just to say when you're ready, you let me know," Lee said.

The number to the YWCA's 24-hour crisis hotline is 643-0888. You do not have to give your name.

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