Project helps raise awareness of domestic violence

On the outside, Michelle Hornback and Brittany Hankins don’t look like victims of domestic violence.

There are no black eyes, busted lips, bruises or any other signs of physical trauma. Those all have healed.

But on the inside, they carry the scars and damage caused by someone they thought loved them. Those hurts may never heal.

Both Hornback and Hankins escaped their situations and now want to be a source of strength and inspiration to those in the community who may be suffering from domestic violence.

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The two women served as guest speakers during the annual presentation of Cummins Clothesline Project at the Seymour Engine Plant on Friday afternoon.

As part of the project, Cummins employees hung 56 white t-shirts on a makeshift clothesline outside the company’s location on East Fourth Street. Each t-shirt had been decorated and featured the name of a man, woman or child in Indiana who died in the last year as a result of domestic violence.

It was three more shirts than last year.

Three of the victims — Dustin Robbins and Jason and Brandi Jackson — died in Jackson County.

Robbins died on April 5 of this year, when he was shot and killed by his mom’s boyfriend during a domestic dispute. His niece, Shawnna Reynolds, hung a special tie-dyed T-shirt she decorated in his memory.

“It means a lot because the shirts show more than what a number would show,” she said. “It’s more visual to see all the shirts than just a number in a newspaper article.”

The Clothesline Project is a simple, but visually effective way to get people to talk about domestic violence and to understand those who are impacted by it are more than just a statistic, said Cummins employee Candace Foist.

Foist is a member of the Cummins Community Involvement Team and serves as a liaison between the company and Turning Point Domestic Violence Services which has an office in Jackson County.

Turning Point’s mission is to help victims of domestic violence and bring to light the seriousness of the issue and the impact it has on individuals, families and the community.

This was Foist’s third year to lead the Clothesline Project and the fifth year Cummins has participated overall. Besides the clothesline, the company also raised money by selling purple pinwheels and survivor flags which were planted along the clothesline and let employees wear jeans for $1.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the shirts will remain on the clothesline through the end of the month.

“It’s important to bring attention to domestic violence to let people know there is help out there,” Foist said.

Assisting Foist for the second year was her coworker April Gross.

“They’re not alone,” Gross said of those suffering from domestic violence. “We can help be their voice.”

This year, there were a few small T-shirts hung to represent the deaths of children and even a onesie for an infant that died before he was born.

“It’s not just adults that are being abused,” Foist said. “The children are innocent bystanders. And it’s not just physical abuse, but emotional too.”

Although they might not see an immediate impact from the Clothesline Project, Gross said it still makes a difference.

“I think everyone is thankful that there is someone out there that is trying to raise awareness,” she said. “Just like any different organization, word of mouth is the most important thing.”

A lot of people think domestic violence only involves physical injuries, but that’s not the case, Gross added.

“There’s several types of abuse that falls under domestic violence,” she said. “It’s not the outside so much as the inside. The inside never heals.”

Besides physical abuse, there is emotional and sexual abuse, stalking, intimidation and harassment and even financial abuse.

Hornback suffered from domestic violence for 10 years and was able to leave the situation through the support of her church.

“I was abused physically, mentally and sexually,” she said. “I was held at knifepoint. I was held at gunpoint.”

After her church helped her see what was was going on and supported her in getting out, she then opened up to her family.

“I finally opened up to them and allowed them to know what was going on,” she said. “I was ashamed and had a lot of guilt for a lot of years, but I can honestly say that it was God who helped me to break those chains and break that barrier to allow people to come in and help.”

Now, it is Hornback’s goal in life to help other women like her.

Although it’s not easy to talk about domestic violence, and its impact, Hankins said it’s something she has to do.

“Sometimes I ask myself and wonder why these things happen and I will forever be praying and searching for ways for this crisis to come to a halt,” she said. “Awareness, I believe is an essential aspect.”

Because domestic violence does not discriminate against age, gender, nationality or social and economic status, it can and does affect everyone, she added.

“My name is Brittney Hankins and I am a victim of domestic violence,” she said. “I am a statistic and I am a voice.”

She grew up in an abusive home and that abuse followed her in her relationships through her teens and early 20s, she said.

Hankins was introduced to alcohol when she was 15, she said, and her boyfriend at the time took advantage of her. She began using drugs when she was 16.

She dropped out of school when she was 18 and moved to Florida with her boyfriend to escape the drugs. At 19, she was pregnant with her first son and soon became a single mom.

When she was 21 she was held captive and beat by the father of her second child, she said. At 22, she attempted suicide.

The abuse didn’t end there. Her fiance put her in the hospital with possible brain damage after he beat her, she said. But instead of being helped, she was taken to jail because they believed she was the one being abusive.

At 24, she was pregnant with her third child and in a different relationship, which quickly turned abusive too, she said.

But that’s when she was introduced to Turning Point.

“For the first time, I was offered compassion and provided with resources,” she said. “Through the support and prayers of others I found hope. the cycle of domestic violence in my family stops with me.”

Charlotte Moss, community services director for Turning Point in Jackson County, said facing domestic violence is difficult, but there are many people who want to help.

“In my job, I see a lot of the ugliness and pain that go with this problem, and it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s hard for me to hold back the tears, but I want to share that there are also a lot of supporters in this community. Turning Point can not succeed alone. The community can not succeed alone. We need each other.”

She thanked Cummins for bringing the issue of domestic violence to light each year with the Clothesline Project and not let the victims be forgotten.

Another group lending a hand to fight domestic violence is First Presbyterian Church in Seymour. Through Dorothy’s Purses the church provides purses and wallets with gift cards and other items someone might need in a crisis situation to Turning Point clients.

Since July, Turning Point has given out 11 of the purses, Moss said.

“The clients cry when they receive this gift,” she added.

On behalf of the church, Mike and Linda Jordan accepted the Mission Partner Award from Turning Point for the purse project, which is named after the late Dorothy King.

Moss also presented Turning Point’s Community Partner Award which went to Seymour Police Officer Keith Williams for his work as a school resource officer and his involvement with Teens for Change and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Through those groups, Moss said they are making a difference.

“Officer Williams is very good at inspiring the groups to be a leading drive for change in the community,” she said.