Event targets domestic violence

Tabitha Brock was a 23-year-old student who had just finished her first semester at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus with straight A’s.

She had been a beautician for six years and loved her work, but she wanted to go to college to create a better life for her 4-year-old son. She had talked about becoming an elementary school teacher.

But on the night of May 10, 2012, her on-and-off boyfriend of 10 years, Gerald Combs, killed her in front of her son and later placed her body in a car, drove to County Road 1075E and Enos Road north of Seymour, got out of the car and set it on fire.

Before the incident, Combs had been abusing Brock.

In December 2012, Combs was sentenced to 24 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, abuse of a corpse and neglect of a dependent.

Around that time, Brock’s family started an organization in her memory to spread awareness of abuse and to support victims of violence. It started out as Justice for Tabitha but since 2014 has been known as The Tabitha Brock Foundation Inc.

Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the foundation is conducting an event, Taking Back Jackson County from drugs and violence, from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Rails Craft Brew and Eatery in downtown Seymour. It will feature five speakers, food, a silent auction and entertainment. Tickets are $40 and may be purchased online through midnight Saturday.

“My goal is to get people to educate themselves about this issue,” said Nikki Allman, who runs the foundation with her mother, Cindy Bloom.

“It’s not something that’s talked about,” she said. “I had health class in school. I was never taught about sexual abuse or teen dating violence. It’s just something that, in a smaller community like this, doesn’t get talked about very often.”

By educating the community through this event, Allman hopes people will start talking about it.

“The biggest problem in domestic abuse is the bystander effect, that people don’t want to get involved in these situations,” she said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean a physical confrontation. It means calling when you hear something, saying something, talking to your friends or your family if you see these types of situations. It’s a very silent epidemic.”

The event’s speakers will be Jackson County Prosecutor AmyMarie Travis; Rick Meyer, an officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department; Kyle McIntosh, a behavior health technician with Centerstone and owner of Expressive Mind Artistry LLC; Allman; and Bloom.

Travis, who was the prosecutor in Brock’s case, will talk about the legal aspects of domestic abuse.

Meyer will talk about drug and domestic issues he sees on a daily basis in his job. Allman said the No. 1 call officers respond to is related to domestic violence, and officers have the greatest chance of being killed in the line of duty responding to a domestic call.

McIntosh will share his story of overcoming drug addiction and losing his brother to drugs and suicide.

Bloom will talk about what happened to her daughter and share a mother’s perspective of losing a child to domestic violence. Allman will talk about the foundation and its goals and how it was to lose a sister.

When Justice for Tabitha was established, two concerts were conducted — one to help pay for Brock’s headstone and funeral costs and another one to spread awareness of domestic violence. The leaders also conducted Domestic Violence 101 training and spoke in the community.

The foundation, which is led by Allman, Bloom and some board members and volunteers, became incorporated in 2014, and Allman currently is working toward nonprofit status.

Its Facebook page recently reached 3,000 followers, and Allman said people from all around the world have shared their domestic violence stories with her.

Starting Oct. 19 and continuing the following five Mondays, foundation representatives will go to Girls Inc. of Jackson County and teach seventh- and eighth-graders about teen dating violence, healthy relationships and sexual abuse.

In November, the foundation will start a monthly women’s support group for those in an abusive relationship, domestic violence survivors and their family members. Allman said women who suffer domestic abuse are at a much higher risk of health problems.

“A lot of them never open up about it,” she said. “I feel like once they do, that’s when you’re going to see the healing start.”

Allman said she also would like to go into jails to speak to domestic abusers.

“It’s wonderful that we help the survivors afterwards, and they definitely need that support,” she said. “But if we can prevent one abuser from continuing to abuse people in their lifetime, then that’s going to help out a lot more.”

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What: Taking Back Jackson County from drugs and violence, including five speakers, food, a silent auction and entertainment

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Upstairs in the banquet room at Rails Craft Brew and Eatery, 114 St. Louis Ave., Seymour

Why: The event will focus on educating the community on abuse and how the drug epidemic has increased violence in society.

Who: The speakers will be Cindy Bloom, Tabitha Brock’s mother; Nikki Allman, Brock’s youngest sister; AmyMarie Travis, Jackson County prosecutor; Kyle McIntosh, behavior health technician at Centerstone and owner of Expressive Mind Artistry LLC; and Rick Meyer, an officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department

Cost: $40

Proceeds: The event will benefit The Tabitha Brock Foundation Inc.

Tickets: eventbrite.com/e/taking-back-jackson-county-from-drugs-violence-tickets-17362667205; deadline to purchase is midnight Saturday.

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For information about The Tabitha Brock Foundation Inc., visit facebook.com/justicefortabitha or thetabithabrockfoundation.com/.