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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The second time — and at least 12 hours of phone calls — was the charm for Cynthia Byas-Turner to pack them in at a family violence seminar.

Armed with a telephone, a strong index finger and a firm belief in her cause, Byas-Turner gathered a standing-room- only crowd Tuesday at Jyuban Tower for a film and discussion about abused women and children, and what people should do to help.

“We had a great discussion,” said Byas-Turner, a family advocacy education specialist who works for the Fleet and Family Support Center. “People just seemed very interested. I’m hoping they came away with the understanding that this is a community issue.”

The seminar was the second of three public events to help raise awareness of domestic violence and its pervasiveness and dynamics and offer suggestions for intervention.

Forty-six people — ship ombudsmen, command master chiefs, chaplains, school officials and a variety of others, Byas-Turner said — came for the nearly two-hour session. They also had lunch, paid for by the USS Kitty Hawk Officers’ Spouses’ Club. “The pizza was gone. I think there was one hot wing,” Byas-Turner said.

It was a welcome change from the first time.

On Oct. 5, despite coffee and cookies for 40 and scores of e-mails sent to most base commands, just one person showed up: the ombudsman for the USS Kitty Hawk strike group.

The events are put on by Fleet and Family Support during October as participation in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

One last event is planned. From 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, Byas-Turner and others will be handing out pamphlets about domestic violence, as well as magnets and T-shirts with a domestic violence theme.

“If a woman is being abused, she’ll look at the literature and think, ‘Those people care and they’re not going to think it’s my fault,’” Byas-Turner said. “That’s why I’ve been out in the rain. For those silent victims. The ones crying in the dark. It’s, ‘Hey, we’re here.’”

There are no comprehensive statistics on the incidence of domestic abuse on Yokosuka Naval Base, but some studies have indicated higher rates of family violence in military families than in the larger U.S. population.

Byas-Turner said some of the people she called weren’t excited about attending, in part because they didn’t sense a need.

“They were, like, ‘I don’t have this issue.’ Well, I’m happy for you. However, let’s get more information so you can help the fellow down the street,” she said.

“Even though it might not be your issue, perhaps it’s a neighbor or a cousin or a colleague. We also talked about it being not only the community’s responsibility but an individual’s responsibility to speak up and speak out. To not say anything — that’s how we perpetuate domestic violence.”

A handful of people at the seminar did say they’d come into contact with family violence, including a woman who called security when she heard neighbors fighting. Base counselors say that’s how they get many of their referrals.

And Byas-Turner related her own story of how she intervened in an ugly scene at the commissary, where an angry woman was screaming at her 3-year-old and had put her fist in front of the child’s face.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect our children. I refused to just keep walking by,” Byas- Turner said.

So she walked up to the woman and asked, “Do you know where the corn flakes are?”

“It was so out of the blue, it allowed her the opportunity to catch her breath,” Byas-Turner said. “I looked back, and she and her child were laughing.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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