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Ceremony pays tribute to Pa. victims of domestic violence

Written by Ed Mahon/York Daily Record | Oct 14, 2015 4:26 AM

(Harrisburg) -- Barbara Schrum won't ever go to her children's weddings. She won't become a grandmother, which, daughter Alecia Armold said, was something she desperately wanted to be.

But it's not thinking about those types of big things that make Armold miss her mother the most.

It's the little things. Armold still picks up the phone to call her mother after work. Armold said she would really like to buy some plants, but she doesn't think she could keep them alive without her mother's expertise to rely on.

"As an adult, you don't realize how much you still need your parents until they're not there," Armold said during a Tuesday ceremony at the state Capitol.

The ceremony in Harrisburg was dedicated to honoring Pennsylvania victims who have died in domestic violence homicides in the past year. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence worked with local organizations, lawmakers, survivors and others to organize the event.

During the ceremony, state representatives and senators read the names of more than 100 people in Pennsylvania killed since October 2014.

Armold's mother was one of nine victims in confirmed or suspected domestic violence homicide cases from York County recognized by the coalition during the ceremony.

Police and the York County Coroner's Office have said that Schrum, 55, was killed May 29, along with her friend Laurie Kuykendall Kepner, 53, in a double murder-suicide.

Schrum went with Kuykendall to pick up Kuykendall's belongings at the Warrington Township home of her estranged husband, Martin Kepner. Kepner, 60, shot the two women dead and then turned the gun on himself, according to police and the coroner's office.

In the months that followed, it was bittersweet for Armold to see how many lives her mother touched.

"There were times I hugged complete strangers, and I knew their grief ran almost as deep as my own," said Armold, 31, of the Mechanicsburg area.

Since Schrum's and Kuykendall's deaths, their family members have worked to raise awareness of domestic violence and support for victims. They have called for the expansion of the Lethality Assessment Program, a screening tool used by some police departments to identify alleged victims of domestic violence who are at the highest risk of being killed or seriously injured.

Officers from at least 10 York County police departments have received training to implement the program.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said in an email that his department is interested in using the program, but is "currently attempting to address an issue that keeps us from implementing the assessment." He did not elaborate.

Expanding the use of the lethality assessment is also a key goal of the coalition.

Peg Dierkers, executive director of the coalition, said the group supports a voluntary expansion of the program, so police departments fully buy into it.

The coalition is also working with lawmakers and others for legislation related to firearms restrictions for people subject to a Protection From Abuse order.

Dierkers said the gun legislation hasn't been introduced yet.

"We're working very diligently with all the different stakeholders, including the gun lobby, to understand each other's needs," she said.

Barbara Schrum's two other children, Becky Schrum and Matt Armold, also attended Tuesday's ceremony. So did a sister of Kuykendall, Karen Nordsick, and Nordsick's husband, Rob.

Karen Nordsick said the ceremony was part of her healing process.

During the ceremony, Karen Nordsick and Becky Schrum put the final piece into a map of Pennsylvania with the names of domestic violence victims on the pieces.

"It brings a little bit of closure," Karen Nordsick said.

Quotable

Alecia Armold, daughter of homicide victim Barbara Schrum: "There's an army of kind, passionate people who have been fighting and advocating long before the words domestic violence were ever part of my vocabulary, and this army embraces newcomers, victims and survivors with open arms. I urge you to join us in this fight so that other families do not have to go through what mine has, and what all families affected by domestic violence have: a future forever altered," she said.

Becky Schrum, daughter of homicide victim Barbara Schrum: "It's overwhelming to see the amount of support and also overwhelming to see how much domestic violence has touched ... not just us, not just the county," she said.

Matt Armold, son of homicide victim Barbara Schrum: Armold said he was glad to support his siblings who had public roles in the ceremony. "I'm not the best with speaking out and sharing, so I'm glad that they can kind of share my feelings with people," he said.

Karen Nordsick, sister of homicide victim Laurie Kuykendall Kepner: "The whole community needs to be aware of this, and it needs to be talked about more. ...No one wants to talk about domestic violence," she said.

Peg Dierkers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence: "When survivors speak out, it gives other survivors, that may be still living in a domestic violence relationship, courage to come forward for help, and it also lets other family members who've lost someone know they're not alone," she said.

Resources

Resources for domestic violence victims and their family/friends:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, available in English and Spanish 24 hours a day, is 1-800-799-7233.

ACCESS-York can be reached at 717-846-5400 or 1-800-262-8444.

Safe Home YWCA can be reached at 717-632-0007.

Resources are available online. However, victims of domestic violence should be aware that their abuser could monitor their online activity, advocates say.

Online resources include the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, www.pcadv.org, and ACCESS-York, www.ywcayork.org/victim-services.

Related

More York County police to get lethality assessment training

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

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