A Kanawha County domestic violence worker tragically knows the deep hurt an abusive relationship can cause and that’s why she’s pushing for Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Tonia Thomas works with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and has so for the past nine years but she says she felt helpless last year when her sister, Teresa Wilson, was involved in a bad relationship.
“I saw this relationship that my sister was in—was so scary,” Thomas told MetroNews. “He had such a hold on her. It was such a struggle for her to try and get away from him even with a sister who does this work.”
Tragically her sister was murdered by Arthur Agnew last June. He pleaded guilty last week in Raleigh County Circuit Court to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“It was so hard for her to find the help that she really needed. I felt very helpless at the time,” Thomas said. “We never could get him away from her.”
The U.S. Senate is currently considering VAWA reauthorization. Last year it provided West Virginia with more than $3.9 million for enforcement and victims’ services.
U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, a cosponsor of the reauthorization, has a roundtable discussion scheduled on domestic violence Friday afternoon at the Berkeley County DHHR office in Martinsburg. Rockefeller says there are inspiring stories of survival in West Virginia.
Rockefeller says VAWA “supports the services that make a difference for these survivors. It should absolutely be continued, and it should be strengthened.”
Thomas says reauthorization will help the domestic violence coalition provide advocacy services, hotline services and funds for domestic violence shelters. There are also funds focusing on response.
“How do we respond better to people out there in very high risk situations?”
Like her sister.
“Domestic violence can happen to anybody. It spreads across so many demographics and no one is immune from it,” Thomas said.