Survivors of violence hold vigil
Tall, beautiful blonde Tanya Halleib, 40, was lying in a hospital bed six months ago, bruised and broken from the beating she endured at the hands of her partner, when she finally decided to leave him.
“The sheriff (deputy) that came was so supportive,” she said. “I was bloody. A wreck. He just calmed me down and he said ‘Look, you don’t want this for your daughters, do you?’ A little light bulb came on and I said you know what? I gotta get out of here. I’m gonna press charges and I gotta go.”
Halleib, accompanied by her three teen daughters and 13-year-old son, attended the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition’s “Take Back the Night” candlelight vigil Thursday night in downtown Grass Valley.
About 100 people holding candles walked the streets with a police escort, then gathered in the parking lot at city hall to hear several speakers, including Halleib, Grass Valley Police Sgt. Doug Hren, Nevada County Superior Court Judge Sean Dowling and Nevada County Victim/Witness Director Rod Gillespie address the problem of domestic violence in Nevada County.
Halleib told the crowd she is a survivor.
“With the help of the DVSAC, I have an apartment, I have my kids, I have a boyfriend who is clean and sober,” she said. “I am healthy, happy and safe.”
According to Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster, family violence calls are a major concern for police, as they respond to them frequently.
“Domestic violence is one of highest calls for service in this community,” he said during the vigil. “The DVSAC works with us in a partnership. Our collaboration really makes a difference. Without them, there would be more calls to respond to.”
As she walked next to her husband carrying a candle, Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Katherine Kull-Francis emphasized the importance of different groups working together to minimize the problem, including police, prosecutors, defenders and victim advocates.
“Domestic violence happens more than most people want to know,” she said. “This kind of thing is helpful so people can remember it’s a significant problem in our community.”
In front of her walked Thomas Anderson, Nevada County public defender and candidate for Nevada County Superior Court judge. He and Kull-Francis said they have begun to work together to form an alternative court program for domestic violence, based on several successful plans within California and surrounding states.
Anderson’s opponent, Grass Valley attorney Ray Shine, also attended the vigil.
“It’s a good time to think about victims,” he said.
Nevada County Judge Sean Dowling took the microphone before Halleib, saying he cannot act as an advocate in order to maintain his impartiality as a judge, but he did praise the court’s mediation program.
“We only use mediation when there are kids involved,” he said. “The court cannot change custody unless mediation has taken place.”
He said despite some criticism of the program, mediators are capable and experienced in dealing with domestic violence.
“Our mediators have master’s degrees and domestic violence training, which they are required to renew on an ongoing basis. … I have no doubt the mediators protect the rights of victims and the accused.”
Dowling invited people to go to to court and find out for themselves how the process works.
Before she walked away from the vigil into the night, Halleib looked at her 17-year-old daughter, Jorja, and asked, “Are you proud of me?”
Jorja nodded, looked into her mother’s eyes and smiled.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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