New effort to raise domestic violence awareness

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Scott Swan/Eyewitness News

Domestic violence is often responsible for many of the crime stories seen on WTHR. Thousands of people call for help every year, and sadly, dozens of people have died at the hands of an abuser.

As a new effort begins to raise awareness about the issue and the victims who are often too ashamed to seek help, fans coming to Indiana Fever games will now see more than basketball.

Banners inside Conseco Fieldhouse offer a glimpse of the Hoosiers who have died from domestic abuse, and it's the picture of Anthony Willis that serves as a reminder that men can also be victims.

The Anthony Willis murder made headlines in 2006 when he was killed by his girlfriend.

"She went and got a knife and stabbed him," Willis' stepmother Judith Willis said. "He bled out before she went and got help. His dad taught him not to fight women, and so he wouldn't defend himself."

Willis, who played football before joining the Army, represents the estimated 20 percent of abuse victims who are men.

"A lot of it is just the stigma for a man to come out and say my intimate partner - my wife or girlfriend - is abusing me," Domestic Violence Network's Julie Marsh said.

"I think a lot of times, men are ashamed to let anyone know that they're being abused because they're supposed to be a man," Judith Willis said.

Willis, as his bannder reads, showed his strength by turning the other cheek.

"He did turn the other cheek," Judith Willis said. "He didn't lash back at her when she would accost him."

Advocates for victims hope his banner and others like it will show the public that people who are abused come from all walks of life.

"The Power of Images project is really about helping the whole community understand that domestic violence affects us all," Marsh said.

"Hopefully, with the banners that are around, some of these guys would see this and realize that they don't have to live like that," Judith Willis said.

The couple that still grieves hopes that the story of their son and the violence he experiences will prompt victims to seek help.

"I pray that somebody will wake up and have a change of attitude," Nerris Willis, Willis' father said.

If you're in an abusive situation, you can call 211 for resources. For more information on Domestic Violence Network or the Shattering the Silence campaign, click here.