SPRING HILL — She remembers barely being able to reach the phone to dial 911. And praying that her mother would be alive in the morning.
But laws and attitudes were different years ago when Tiffany Carr grew up. There was no help, and even her mother's colleagues ignored her bruises.
Now executive director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Carr spoke Wednesday at the annual breakfast for the Dawn Center, Hernando County's agency for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
As a survivor of domestic violence herself, Carr praised efforts and laws now in existence to protect women and children.
"While we can all take pride in these accomplishments, we all know we still have far to go," Carr said. "Too many women are still having their bodies attacked and their spirits assaulted."
Carr mentioned recent high-profile examples of domestic violence that ended in tragedy, including the death of a Hillsborough County infant thrown out of a moving car on Interstate 275.
Richard McTear Jr., 21, is accused of beating a former girlfriend who had filed an injunction against him and then fleeing with the baby.
"Even with a felony domestic violence strangulation arrest, he roamed the streets a free man," said Carr. The entire system failed, she said.
Carr called for a shift in prevailing attitudes.
"Domestic violence will only end when we address those conditions that sustain violence in our society," she said. "It will only end when we challenge those customs that say it is wrong to hit a stranger, but not a partner."
Today's economy and the personal stresses associated with pay cuts and high unemployment affect domestic violence on several fronts, she said. Families who are struggling financially and emotionally are more apt to be pushed to the breaking point.
At the same time, Carr noted, support services that offer help for domestic violence or mental health issues are struggling to make ends meet.
"The demands for services have never been greater and the funding has never been less," she told the group.
Hernando Sheriff Richard Nugent, who serves on the Dawn Center's board of directors, echoed her sentiment.
Victims of domestic violence and abuse often have no voice, he said. They are dependent on places like the Dawn Center, which is facing tough times financially.
"With the government being pinched, we need you," Nugent said. "This is a resource that could vanish tomorrow."
For information or to donate to the Dawn Center, call (352) 684-7191.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.