GREENFIELD — On the table, amid family photo-graphs and tributes written by family members, sat a child’s pair of ballet slippers, a reminder of a life lost.
Kelsey Abraham, 5, always wanted to be a ballerina. But those dreams were cut short July 28, 1997, when she was murdered by her father.
The display at the Hancock County Public Library on Monday, during an event celebrating the kickoff of a new anti-violence coalition, personalized an issue that event organizers said can be uncomfortable to talk about. It included items that belonged to victims of domestic violence that escalated to tragedy.
The table is part of an Alternatives Inc. project called An Empty Place at the Table, a way to mourn the deaths of domestic victims and raise awareness about the issue.
It was on display during the Hancock County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence kickoff event Monday afternoon.
The event served as a way to launch the new organization, which aims to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence in Hancock County. It attracted about 50 community stakeholders representing city and county government, Hancock Regional Hospital, area law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office and community organizations.
The group spent an hour discussing domestic violence, how the community perceives it, and how residents and community members can work together to end it.
Mary Jo Lee, CEO of Alternatives Inc., a Madison County-based organization that provides shelter and resources to victims of family violence in Hancock and surrounding counties, told attendees domestic violence affects everyone.
For 18 months, representatives from Alternatives Inc. have been working with residents and community officials to form the coalition. They’re working so no other children have to live in violent homes and no more women or men are abused by their significant others, Lee said.
Lee said she was glad it took like-minded community leaders, not a tragic event, to bring the community together.
“I’m really grateful we’re not here today after a horrific murder,” she said.
The kickoff event is the start to what needs to be a communitywide effort to stand up against domestic and sexual violence, she said.
Kelly Buzan, outreach advocate for Alternatives Inc., which has a Hancock County office at the Greenfield Police Department, said she was encouraged by how many community members attended the event. For years, she said, she felt alone working to address family violence as a victim advocate in Hancock County.
“It’s great to know there are like-minded folks coming together to do some work in this field,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m all by myself.”
Increasing awareness for domestic and sexual violence has been in the works for a long time, Buzan said.
Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said his department has been working with Buzan’s office for years, and in that time, it’s made a commitment to better serve victims and raise awareness.
“We support the coalition’s efforts and are looking forward to creating improved response to domestic and sexual violence from our department and community,” he said.
Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said his office also is on board. Earlier this year, he hired a victim advocate. He’s excited to see his office work with the community to address domestic violence.
“This is an important issue in our community,” he said. “As a prosecutor, I’m committed to the right everyone has to live in homes without violence. I’m looking forward to working with our partners to … make that a reality in our community.”
Buzan said the coalition’s next step is to gauge interest. Everyone who attended the meeting was invited to join the coalition’s efforts. Members will break into subcommittees to meet various needs, including justice for victims, general community awareness, youth education and prevention, and funding.
The coalition will meet next in May.
Lee said she’s looking forward to seeing what the coalition can do in Hancock County.
“I think we’ve done a really good job,” she said of the coalition’s start. “This isn’t ever going to end. We’re going to continue. We just have to do this together.”
For more information on or to get involved with the Hancock County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence, contact victim advocate Kelly Buzan at 317-462-8777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.