Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 12, 2017

Jim walks for other kids like him, who are still stuck in the midst of domestic violence.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–A 10-year-old boy is looking forward to the May 27 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event taking place around the Athens courthouse. Why? He wants to do his part to show support for those other kids who are still in the middle of domestic violence.
The annual International Men’s March is held to further conversations about manhood, family relationships and the growing problem of domestic violence throughout the community.
This is Jim’s (not his real name) second year to participate. Both years he was sponsored anonymously for the fundraiser, benefitting the East Texas Crisis Center, located in Tyler and Athens.
He was just 7 when he was woken by the sound of gunshots in his Montgomery County house. All day, he’d watched his father fiddle with a gun he kept on his person, taking it out, putting it back, talking to himself. And now, he lives with the guilt of feeling he could have, should have, done something to prevent what happened to his mom.
Miraculously, his mom survived being shot through her left eye and out the back of her head, but she suffered brain damage, a faulty memory and the inability to cope with stress and intense emotional responses.
“When I was 6, I thought I had a perfect life, until my dad got mad and shot my mom,” Jim told The Monitor. “But looking back, I know now it wasn’t perfect. I walk for those who are still going through domestic violence.”
Of that night, he said: “I was sleeping in the living room, then I heard a POW! And my sister screaming. Then I saw her run out the door. The dog was barking. I went toward the room and saw Dad standing over her saying how sorry he was. He sent me outside to wait for the police. We went to the neighbor’s house and stayed there the rest of the night. I was so sad for over a month and thought it was a dream, but it wouldn’t go away. My sister (then 11) and I didn’t really talk about what happened.”
His parents became sweethearts in junior high school; and the abuse started even back then. “They just kind a grew into their abusive relationship,” one observer surmises.
Today, Jim envisions a future life of a playboy, surrounded by beautiful women around a swimming pool because he’s made it big as a comedian. “I’ve dedicated my life to comedy, because I don’t want to see people sad,” he said. As a fourth grader, last year, he said he got the reputation as the class clown, which he admits wasn’t always a good thing.
“Children involved in abuse will remember stuff they don’t ever want to remember – even if they want to erase it out of their minds,” he said. “I’ll probably never forget it.”
Jim and his sister have been living with a first cousin of their mother’s. For the couple, along with extended family, it’s been one legal battle after another, regarding Jim and his sister.
Their mother healed from her injuries and sees herself as a good mom and lonely for her kids. However, every temporary living situation near her kids has ended in her having to move away.
Every three or four months, she is convinced her kids and she would be better off together than apart and gets a legal aid attorney to take her case. Meanwhile those sheltering her children can no longer afford to lawyer up.
His mom found the latest opportunity to get her kids back through divorcing her jail-residing husband. She has been awarded custody.
On June 3, Jim and his 15-year-old sister will be going to live with their mom in a small trailer on the Texas coastline. She has no car and is still involved with alcohol.
“I love my mom, but I know it’s not safe to live with her,” Jim said.
His greatest hope in living with his mom is he’ll get to have his own electronics, maybe a cell phone, stuff he’s not allowed access to, now. His biggest fear is “seeing me or my sister getting involved in sexual assault,” he said.
He runs down a list of seven things he’s been taught to do to keep himself safe, which includes screaming, fighting back, running away, jumping out of a car, taking a photo or video and calling for help.
The woman he calls grandma describes Jim as frozen in time, emotionally to the age of 7 and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They both could have a chance given some help and stability and an example of healthy living,” Grandma says. “But in these cases of domestic abuse and the (divorce) courts, the effects on the children are rarely taken into consideration.”
Jim’s foster family hopes and prays when the children have to be separated from their mother (again), an occurrence they are certain will happen, that their case for custody will finally be transferred to Henderson County and their guardianship will be firmly established. “That’s what we’re praying for,” foster mom and grandma agree.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : April 14, 2017

By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Friends, family and community members rallied around disabled athletes April 7-8 for the 17th annual Mabank Special Olympics.
The event grows every year. Teams from eight cities made their way to Mabank to compete. Participating areas include Mabank (28 participants), Tyler (68), Panola (5), Mexia (10), Kemp (23), Eustace (9), Canton (20) and Athens (20).
Event organizer Merritt Harpole manned the microphone and kept all the spectators informed. Harpole says the event is very important for both the competitors and spectators.
“The Special Olympics gives the special athletes an opportunity to compete with their peers,” Harpole said. “The comradery of the event is important to friends and family as well, because we all come together and see our loved ones succeeding and thriving.”
Harpole has been involved since the inception of the Mabank Special Olympics 17 years ago. He saw a need when Mabank teams traveled to other cities to compete.
“After that we created a Special Olympic track and field event here in Mabank and began inviting other cities to come here,” he said.
He also had a much more personal reason. Her name is Stephanie and she has Down’s Syndrome. Stephanie Harney is Harpole’s granddaughter. Stephanie first started competing in the 90s at the age of 8.
“Being involved in Special Olympics has been a very rewarding experience for her – and us,” he said.
Harpole said parent involvement is among the most important aspects of the Mabank Special Olympics success.
“I saw the need to get more parents involved and after they did, the team began growing,” he said. “When I started, we had eight athletes and today we have many more. What’s kept this going and growing is parent communication and involvement. My granddaughter is still competing today at 30 years old. It’s been rewarding for the athletes and all the adults involved, as well.
The past two years we have tried getting the high school students involved for an enrichment experience for them.” Unlike past years, the event was held on Friday (instead of Saturday) and Mabank students helped with concessions and were stationed around the track to cheer on the athletes as they circled the track.
Track and field events on Friday included javelin, high-jump, shot put, relays, soft ball throw and various dashes. Athletes returned on Saturday for the cycling events.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : April 12, 2017

Like so much dirty laundry hung for all to see, survivors of sexual assault and abuse tell their stories through short messages. So many more T-shirts were not hung up Tuesday due to the threat of rain, East Texas Crisis Center Director Della Cooper said.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–East Texas Crisis Center staffer Gwen Cox read some astounding statistics on sexual assault and abuse during a Sexual Assault Awareness Proclamation ceremony on the courthouse steps in Athens Tuesday.
She said 6.3 million Texans have experienced sexual assault or sexual abuse. The Athens Office of the East Texas Crisis Center have served more than 200 such clients last year and is working 26 active cases.
County Judge Richard Sanders thanked all the volunteers that work each day to try to prevent this terrible crime “Without dedicated people who work each day, this problem could be a whole lot worse. To think almost a quarter of our population here in Texas has had some sort of sexual abuse happen to them or a family member is really mind-boggling to me.”
He read the proclamation making April a month to educate and raise awareness around the issues of sexual assault and abuse, which affects people of all ages, races and economic circumstances.
“The consequences of sexual abuse are often severe and long lasting. The risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder increases dramatically for victims of sexual assault. Therefore, let us extend our education campaign and build on the network of support to address this issue, including outreach to schools on topic issues of sexual assault.
“United in this effort we can continue to make a difference,” he read.
After thanking the many volunteers who work in this area, Sanders said he looks forward to the day when we can celebrate that sexual assault is no longer a factor in this county.
Rev. Ed Schauer of The Church of The Nazarene in Gun Barrel City closed the proceding in prayer asking God to “touch each of us to stand in the gap for these victims. Cure this disease by your touch, we pray.”