FFOYA, BRASS host domestic violence awareness benefit

Victoria Mitchell, 20, of Bowling Green looks at artwork on display with her six-month-old daughter, Isabella Keaton on Friday, October 14, at the FFOYA House. “I came to this event tonight because I was in a domestic violence relationship with her father and it’s so nice to go to hear other people’s stories,” Mitchell said. Ebony Cox/HERALD

Callie Miller

Local artists, bands and poets showcased their work this weekend during a benefit for Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The Barren River Area Safe Space, a domestic violence shelter and program, and the FFOYA House were co-partners for the event.

The benefit featured a Gallery Hop on Friday, followed by the Domestic Violence Awareness month benefit show on Saturday, both at the FFOYA House.

Toby Fatzinger, director at FFOYA House, said it supports causes that are bigger than the rest of us. “Part of our overall mission is to partner with other nonprofits,” he said.

The FFOYA House’s purpose is to connect local artists with social causes. It approached BRASS earlier this year to set up an event to raise domestic violence awareness through art during October.

At the Gallery Hop, several writers read their poems expressing the issue of domestic violence or similar situations. Artists submitted their paintings and drawings to be displayed that showed “how they interpret domestic violence or their reaction to a domestic violence type scenario,” said Pam Hurt, assistant director of BRASS.

Those who attended the Gallery Hop and the benefit were encouraged to bring personal care items for BRASS or make a small monetary donation for admission. All donations are given to women at the shelter.

Teresa Christmas is one of the several local artists who exhibited artwork at the FFOYA House.

Her painting, titled “The Last Time He Hit Her” depicted three young children sitting in chairs. She said she wants people who see it think “What happens to the kids?” in domestic violence situations.

BRASS helped Christmas years ago in her time of need. As both an artist and former domestic violence survivor, she was happy to support the event and cause.

“It feels like it was another lifetime,” she said.

Christmas said many people don’t realize children can be the abused victims too. It is difficult for victims to leave because they will be single parents, she said, “because childcare can be so expensive.”

Eva Ross, singer and guitarist, said the music her band played at the FFOYA House focused on love, relationships and feelings of uncertainty.

“My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced [domestic violence],” she said, adding that she thinks it is important for victims to “seek help and not be ashamed.”

Stephanie Menser and Ava McBride, the BRASS advocates of housing and outreach, attended the event. They spoke between the acts about the effects of domestic violence.

“Domestic violence is very silencing,” Menser said. “Domestic violence is not going to silence us anymore.”

The Former Friends Of Young America band played after Menser and McBride spoke. Amanda Crawford, spouse of Fatzinger, sings, plays the piano and flute for the band.

Crawford founded FFOYA House with Fatzinger as a way to support the local music scene because she doesn’t think independent artists are appreciated. She was in a previous abusive relationship, so the cause for BRASS is personally important to her.

Crawford hoped the event would help connect the music crowd with domestic violence awareness.

 “We want to reach out to an audience that might not otherwise hear their message,” she said.

Though BRASS has a shelter for women, it also extends its services to men. They cannot stay at the shelter, but  but BRASS gives women vouchers for hotels, McBride said. Its services help victims through the entire process of leaving their spouse or dating partner. BRASS reaches victims in 10 surrounding counties.

On Friday, Jan. 1, the Kentucky Court of Justice revised the domestic violence statutes to now provide equal protection for dating violence.

The revised statute helps BRASS reach a larger number of victims. It helps victims get Emergency Protective Orders as well as Interpersonal Protective Orders, which are for victims that are in dating relationships.

“This is another way to offer people protection in our community that has finally become part of our legislation,” Menser said.

Women from the shelter viewed the gallery after it was set up. Menser said it was therapeutic for the women to look at the art and identify with the scenes in the artwork to events in their lives.

“I wasn’t better than them because I lived through this,” Menser said. “I wasn’t worse than them because sometimes I still struggle. I was right next to them in front of that painting, experiencing those feelings and helping them get through it just like they were helping me get through it.”

Correction: In the previous version of this article, the FFOYA House was mentioned as the Former Friends Of Young America House on first reference. The official registered name of the nonprofit is FFOYA House. The Herald regrets the error and encourages readers to report errors in an effort to remain accurate and responsible.

Reporter Callie Miller can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @callie_miller8.