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Philadelphia Group Renews Annual Effort Fighting Violence Against Women

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia domestic violence awareness and prevention agency today kicked off its seventh annual pledge campaign, kicking Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Purple water flowed from the Love Park (JFK Plaza) fountain as scores stood up, right hand held high, and pledged to help end the silence surrounding domestic violence.

The event was sponsored by Women Against Abuse.

"For the five years, between the time her brutalized, mangled body was found dead on the side of the road to the day that her husband was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, I was secretly searching for a map from her to me, from pain to freedom," said Lauren Schwartz, a domestic violence survivor who told the story of her sister Justine, a kindergarten teacher murdered by her abusive husband.

"Domestic abuse, domestic violence is deadly, and it knows no social, no economic, no racial bounds," she said at today's ceremony.   "Please look for the signs in your daughter, your sister, even your child's kindergarten teacher."

Jeannine Lisitski, executive director of Women Against Abuse, says the numbers are disheartening.

"One in three women in the United States will experience violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime," said, adding that there is a great need for resources because thousands of women are turned away from shelters every year.

"This is a crisis, but until last month it was rarely part of the national conversation," she said today, noting that the Ray Rice video changed the dialogue.   "The video was shocking to see, but this type of violence happens behind closed doors every nine seconds."

In Philadelphia, the number of homicides from domestic violence is down.  But Everett Gillison, deputy mayor of public safety, says more work needs to be done.

"Seventy-five percent of the crimes that happen in Philadelphia are as a result of an argument that goes awry," he said.  Gillison was the keynote speaker at the Love Park press conference.  "We truly have to find another way to deal with this issue -- we can do much better," he said.

Women Against Abuse has called for organizations including the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles to partner with them to raise awareness and stop domestic violence.

To sign the pledge, go to

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