Home should be where life plays out, joyfully. Unfortunately for two local-area sisters, their mother’s home is where their lives ended at the hands of an ex-boyfriend of one.

Family members of shooting victims Sofia and Rebeca Davila want to spread awareness about domestic violence, and urge people who are suffering, and those who love them, to speak up about it.  The young women were 19 and 20 years old; the killer, 22-year-old Anthony Ashan Stoutt, a former high school track star turned serial abuser, who turned his gun on himself during a high-speed police chase after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, charging him with two counts of first-degree murder.

Violence against women is widespread, appearing in different situations and forms. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women and one in nine men in the U.S. will experience violence – sexual abuse stalking, physical abuse and/or psychological aggressions – from an intimate partner. Palm Beach County Victim Services has said that they receive more than 2,000 domestic violence calls annually; significantly more people are likely not calling, for fear of their lives.

Sofia Davila feared for her life; The Palm Beach Post reported that Stoutt was under orders of a domestic violence injunction at the time of the murders, filed by Rebeca Davila for her sister, who wrote, “I fear for my safety because Anthony has stated he will kill anyone filing a restraining order.”

Statistics show domestic abuse increasing during times of crisis. Alpert JFS wants to be a support for those who are suffering, so have established a free weekly support group for Women in High Conflict Relationships, facilitated by Alpert JFS Director of Domestic Abuse Sara Walsh, LCSW. The first session will be on Thursday, August 13, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. via Zoom.

“Now, more than ever, domestic victims need support,” said Walsh. “Feelings of isolation have escalated, as have incidences of domestic battery, and domestic violence cases, which have seen an 18% increase in Palm Beach County, and 79% increase in the Treasure Coasts and Okeechobee counties, respectively, between March 6 and April 6, 2020, versus the same time frame in 2019. We are hoping that this support group will reach the women who need it most.”

The Coronavirus has exacerbated the problem of domestic violence. Exponential increases in abuse are being seen as more people are become ill, face growing unemployment, and try to cope with increased anxiety and financial stress. Many victims are without access to the friends, family or resources they had previously.

The free “Women in High Conflict Relationships” support group requires registration and a 10-week commitment. Phone the Alpert JFS Chai Line at 561-684-1991 for more information and to register.

Sara Walsh, LCSW, Alpert JFS Director of Domestic Abuse

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