For many of the speakers at Vera House's annual report on domestic and sexual violence in the Syracuse area, the deaths of Brandy Dallas and Samantha Rainwater were a heartbreaking reminder of what anger and controlling behaviors can lead to. Dallas and Rainwater were stabbed to death in Liverpool last week. Police say Dallas' estranged husband, Justin Dallas, murdered both women and had a history of domestic violence.
An abuse survivor named Dawn spoke at the Vera House presentation. Dawn asked to just use her first name. She was able to break free from a violent relationship last year and says many people underestimate what abusive partners are capable of
"They think, well - he would never do that, he would never go that far. But the problem is, you don't know that until it happens and then you can't take it back," said Dawn.
Police say Justin Dallas violated an order of protection. Vera House executive director Randi Bregman said orders of protection are important even though they have limitations.
"It will never stop a knife, it will never stop a bullet and I think its important to look at how it can help a vulnerable victim but we're realistic that it doesn't guarantee someone's safety," said Bregman.
Domestic violence is more common than many people realize. Police received more than 18,000 domestic incident calls in Onondaga County last year. emergency shelter programs provided temporary help to 933 adults and children last year. At Vera House's presentation on Wednesday, nine silhouettes remembered domestic violence murder victims. Dawn credited Vera House with giving her the support and strength she needed to break the cycle of abuse.
"I am an educated independent woman and I fell victim to this. Anyone can be a victim of this and don't feel ashamed," said Dawn.
Dawn hopes her story of escaping a relationship filled with fear and violence will encourage others to find support.
Vera House has a 24 hour support hotline for anyone who needs help at 468-3260.