When Detective Deirdri Fishel began examining the events that led up to the murder of Amy Homan McGee, a mother of two killed by her husband in November 2001 at their home in State College, Pennsylvania, she discovered a story of domestic violence that she felt needed to be told.

Tonight, a group of domestic violence prevention advocates and elected officials will gather at Fort Mason Center for a special screening of the PBS-produced documentary, “Telling Amy’s Story.”

The film follows the timeline of events leading up to McGee’s death as told by Fishel, the lead detective on the case, and others to help raise awareness about domestic violence.
“In the last two years, my unit has handled over 500 cases of domestic violence,” Fishel says in the film trailer. “And for a couple of years, all of our homicides in Centre County were domestic violence-related. Meaning that, if you were not in a domestic violence relationship, it’s a pretty safe area – but if you can’t be safe in your own home, does it matter if your community is safe?”

Domestic violence deaths are also common in the Bay Area, which has seen several such deaths in the past month alone.

A panel discussion will follow the screening, featuring Secretary of State Debra Bowen, District Attorney Kamala Harris (Update 4:35 PM: Harris has canceled her participation), San Francisco police Inspector Tony Flores, executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium Beverly Upton, and activist Victor Rivers.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, will also attend. For Yee, the event is particularly well-timed as on Monday, state legislators are scheduled to vote on a proposal he introduced to increase marriage license fees from $23 to $33 to help fund domestic violence shelter-based programs in California, Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin said.

The legislation is a response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempts to cut state funding for domestic violence programs for the second year in a row, Keigwin said.

Yee managed to help recover most of those cuts last year, but Keigwin said the governor is trying to eliminate the funding again in the latest version of this year’s budget.

If the money is not restored, the state’s domestic violence programs will suffer drastic consequences, Keigwin said.

“Shelters will close, no doubt about it,” he said.

Yee is also pushing another domestic violence bill that would prevent landlords from evicting tenants who are victims of domestic violence.

The bill is modeled after an ordinance already in place in San Francisco authored by Supervisor Carmen Chu and sponsored by District Attorney Kamala Harris.

“We want to make a statewide policy,” Keigwin said.

Yee’s message at tonight’s screening will be that domestic violence shelters should never be on the chopping block, Keigwin said.

According to the California Department of Justice, there were 113 domestic violence-related deaths in the state in 2008.

“We have to get this out to talk about it because it’s so easy to turn away from this topic and from evidence when we see that’s something’s wrong,” said Melanie Doebler, director of public engagement for Penn State public broadcasting and project director for the film.

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and Verizon Wireless–which funded the film through a grant form the Verizon Foundation — are hosting tonight’s screening. McGee was a Verizon employee.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. at the Conference Center at Fort Mason Center. The screening is not open to the public.

“Telling Amy’s Story” will premiere on public broadcasting stations in the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday June 28.

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