By Charly SHELTON
On average, nearly 20 people a minute are victims of domestic violence, according to a U.S. Dept. of Justice special report on non-fatal domestic violence. Another report, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, published in 2010 by the Center for Disease Control said that “more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
Domestic violence is a commonplace problem that affects literally millions of people every year. On July 16, 2002, one woman was killed by her estranged husband in front of their two children – the end result of a situation of domestic violence. That woman’s sister still carries the weight of that event and recalls it when other cases of domestic violence are reported.
“It’s been a while, but it still strikes a chord whenever I see and hear anything like that,” said Dee Fournier, a former Tujunga resident whose sister, Julie, was murdered. “I’ve struggled with it over the years, the guilt and everything. I knew that her estranged husband had a gun and I didn’t do anything like I felt I should have. It’s the ‘what if,’ ‘I should’ve done,’ ‘I could’ve done’ and I didn’t.”
Fournier is now about to set out on a coast-to-coast hike in her sister’s memory to help call attention to domestic violence and empower women to get out of their own bad situations.
“So this is a way to honor my sister and how I can do something. Her story ended tragically; maybe I can help one woman’s story not end so tragically,” Fournier said.
The hike will last roughly one year and will stretch from California to Maine, following the north route of American Discovery Trail through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware and then on her own chosen path up to Maine where she and her sister grew up.
“I’m hoping to be stopping at various shelters along the way,” Fournier said. “That’s what’s really cool about the American Discovery Trail; it takes you into urban areas and suburban areas. In the urban areas I’m going to contact the women’s shelters prior [to arriving]. I’m going to be stopping in and visiting with these women. The story isn’t going to be about my sister or me – it’s just about encouraging them and letting them know that they aren’t alone. Taking the step and going into the shelter is probably the greatest thing that they’ve done. The problem is so many times the abuser manipulates them back, so I just want to encourage them and keep them going forward.”
Fournier has set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money to fund her trip, and along the trail she will take pictures that she will sell as a fundraiser for the women’s shelters. Her GoFundMe page can be found by searching the campaign title Dee Goes from Trial to Trail. Her trip is expected to start sometime in April.