GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Gaston County Sheriff’s Office is once again illuminated with a purple hue during October evenings. The agency does this each year to promote domestic violence awareness.
This year, the lobby of the office is home to a display honoring those who have died as a result of domestic violence in Gaston County. 42 different silhouettes have been taped to the wall of the lobby. Each one represents a life lost to domestic violence in the last 18 years.
Rett Waggoner, a domestic violence advocate with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, said the youngest of the victims was just two years old. She said the oldest victim was 80, and the most recent victim, 27-year-old Whitney Petway, just died in June of this year.
Petway was allegedly shot and killed by her boyfriend, Zkevis Williams. Williams is currently in the Gaston County Jail facing a murder charge.
“We need to be more talkative about the problem,” Waggoner told WBTV in an interview Thursday night. “We need to be more aware of what the resources are that are available in the county and we need to figure out how we’re gonna get it out to the public to know where any resources are so that they can get help.”
Waggoner explained that members of the public can call 704-869-6843 any time they are in need of resources or information related to domestic violence. The number is now listed on special billboards across Gaston County, and it is displayed on the side of special purple police cruiser that is owned by the sheriff’s office.
“The most important thing is that we take care of the victims of domestic violence, give them hope and an opportunity to get out of a situation that may cost them their life,” said Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger.
Waggoner emphasized that it is important for people to continue the conversation about domestic violence.
“It is definitely something that must be talked about if we intend to make a difference in an abuser and a victim’s life,” said the advocate.
She said that the sheriff’s office expanded its program in March. The agency now employs four advocates. Waggoner said the advocates are allowed to assist law enforcement officers from across the county with domestic violence response calls. She said they also help victims fill out paperwork and are allowed to accompany the victims to court proceedings.