Hendricks County mother raises awareness about domestic violence one year after daughter’s murder

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HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. -- Chasity Chesser was known for her big heart.

The mother of four made quilts for grieving families, baked treats for coworkers' birthdays, had a lot of love and always smiled.

"Everybody remembered her smile," said Chesser's mother, Gloria Million. "Her heart just went out to other people, you know."

But everything changed Oct. 28, 2017. That's when Chasity's husband shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself. Their then 11-year-old was in the room, and their other three children were also at the home, police confirm.

"Mamaw we need you to come over here, there's been an emergency," Million said of the call she received from her grandchildren.

Now she's hoping Chasity's story will help save others from losing their lives in a domestic violence situation.

That night, Million was having dinner with her own husband, talking about helping Chasity out.

"Because the conversation I'd had with her the night before was not good. She had told him that she wanted a divorce and he was doing some weird things that I was afraid. And in the conversation my husband and I were talking, I wanted to help her get out, find a place to get out and we talked about the money situation helping her out, and my words to him at the time were, I was afraid he was going to shoot her," Million said. "Little did I know that remark happened about the same time it was going on."

Million said Chasity had tried to divorce her husband years ago, but he threatened to take the kids away. This time she was looking for another place to stay and had talked with an attorney. While Million didn't know of any physical abuse, she believed there was mental abuse going on.

"It's almost been a year and the pain's still there, considerably. So as far as somebody going through this and not getting help, like I said, all I can say is think about your family," Million said.

It was the second murder-suicide in just a couple years in Pittsboro.

"Both of our murder suicides that we have worked in town we have never had a prior call to that house for domestic for any argument," Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson said. "My message is if you see something, say something."

Chesser is now one of 59 people who died due to domestic violence last year, according to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In less than a month this year, there have been eight lives lost due to domestic violence.

"We know that domestic violence and all violence is preventable and is not inevitable. So what is it that we need to do to change systems response that we can prevent these in the future. We'd been on a down trend so why is that changing all of the sudden? So we will take a a systematic look with the statewide DV fatality review team to analyze these deaths over the last year and hopefully have some resources and some findings that maybe can make a difference," said Laura Berry, the group's executive director.

October is also domestic violence awareness month. One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, according to the ICADV. That means someone you know is likely impacted by it.

Berry said during their statistic year, July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, they served more than 85 people through their shelters--more than 15,000 people in a non-residential capacity and more than 72,000 people through court and advocacy services. But Berry said they also saw an uptick in the last quarter of the fiscal year, with a 10 percent greater request for shelter services, about an 11 percent increase in their crisis line services and about a 9 percent increase in non-residential requests.

Domestic violence isn't reserved to physical abuse, it can also be emotional, psychological and financial. Berry said excessive jealousy, isolation and control, a friend who can't talk with you like they previously did, is limited in activities, late for work or hesitant to talk about their relationship can be warning signs.

One of the biggest barriers for those experiencing domestic violence is an economic one.

"Right now what we're really struggling with is in domestic violence is finding enough funding to create stable housing and economic resources for our survivors to be safe. So our shelters are full and at capacity right now and we're at capacity because we need to be able to move our survivors out into safe and stable housing," Berry said.

The coalition is working to raise awareness and education, talking with youth and adults about creating safe environments to eliminate violence and for this awareness month, participating in the Allstate Foundation's Purple Purse Challenge. 

"More information, you know, just a place to go to get information. One of the big things if I could ever do it would be to go out and be able to help somebody through this--a situation like I have been through--just because I didn't know where to get the help. I didn't know how to file for the social security, how you know just different things, I had no clue. So just giving more information out there for domestic violence," Million said.

Million said they received help and an outpouring of love afterwards, everyone from those at Susie's Place, teachers bringing toiletry items to the kids, people making meals, those who donated and other support from community members.

"I could never possibly touch each and every person to say how much that it was appreciated and how much of a help it actually was," Million said.

Now she's raising Chasity's children and working to help others, too. She encourages those in a domestic violence situation to get help and those who know someone going through one to help them.

Chasity didn't get to see her oldest son graduate from high school. She won't see her other three children, all with their whole lives ahead, do the same. But her mother hopes sharing Chasity's story, that of a loving mother, daughter, sister and friend with a big heart, will make a difference.

"It's difficult to talk about but it's all worth it if I could just save one life."

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation there is help out there and resources available. You can find more information at the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can learn more here.

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