iluna@valleytowncrier.com

EDINBURG - Red, white and blue lights lined up the shoulder lane in support of Domestic Violence Awareness month in front of Edinburg’s police department. The PD station hosted a walk for domestic violence victims and survivors Oct. 16.

Local organizations like Mujeres Unidas, Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County and Easterseals RGV offered their services and shared testimonials from Edinburg’s Fire Chief Shawn Snider and police officer, Lisa Zuniga.

“We have a problem and it’s called domestic violence,” said Cecilia Mata-Moya, legal services manager for Mujeres Unidas. “It happens everywhere and we cannot allow it. We need to remember this problem occurs at all times and it affects people, it affects families and it affects our community.”

Moya shared it is not as easy to tell victims, ‘leave now’ than it is to leave the abuser. She explained the importance of understanding the victims first.

“We need to understand that we need to stop blaming the victims and understand why they stay. There’s financial barriers, there’s fear, and there’s maybe an immigration status that may prevent them from coming forward,” said Moya.

Mujeres Unidas is a non-profit community service organization whose mission is to provide shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Victims seeking help with the organization are always free and confidential.

The program moved forward with testimonials from police officer Lisa Zuniga and Fire Chief, Shawn Snider who shared his story with the community.

“I was seven and my brother was five and we were living with my mother and step-father who was an extremely violent person,” said Snider. “He would solve his life problems by beating up on my mother. Subsequently, at the age of seven and five, we were trying to defend our mother on countless occasions yet to be beaten… one day she made the most selfless act that I’d ever seen and will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

Snider’s mother made a call to his family from the Valley who told them ‘you have one day to come pick us up’. It was his grandparents who drove to Arkansas to pick up his brother and him to raise them. Snider’s mother stayed behind and was found eight years later living with the same abuser in Tyler, TX which she later left him.

“I was able to break her away from that environment. I was actually driving the car at sixteen and was able to tell her ‘get in the car, let’s go right now’. She didn’t leave with me right then but she left at one o’clock in the morning and came to where I was at.”

Snider’s message of the night to domestic violence victims was for them to know that they can always prevail from their situations. The walk then proceeded with community members in support and remembrance for the awareness and those lost to the violent abuse.

For anyone seeking help with domestic violence abuse, Mujeres Unidas hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-580-4879. Easterseals RGV and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County can be found at their available websites: https://www.easterseals.com/rgv/ and http://www.cachidalgo.org/.