MOUNT VERNON — As heads bowed in silence, thoughts and prayers went out to survivors, families, victims and those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and candles were lit on Tuesday night as part of the annual domestic violence vigil.
Held at the YMCA, the vigil launches a month of awareness about domestic violence. Students, school principals, pastors, church members and law enforcement officials were present.
“The turnout tonight is testimony that Knox County takes a stand against domestic violence,” said keynote speaker LeAnn Eshelman, vice president of the board of New Directions, the domestic abuse shelter for the county.
“We have received proclamations from every mayor in Knox County — that is a tremendous show of support,” said Jamie Smith, Delta coordinator at New Directions.
“When we say domestic violence, it is an umbrella that includes teen dating violence; intimate partner violence, where the people may not be committed to one another but there may be violence to one another; and people of divorce, but the abuse may be continuing,” she said.
Because the goal is to promote community education about local resources for crisis services, and encouraging citizens in prevention activities, events will be taking place around the county throughout the month.
“We want this to be something that is communitywide, all of Knox County, so we also have displays about domestic violence and resources that are available to community members in every library in the county,” said Smith.
The Fredericktown and Centerburg libraries established Clothesline Projects, wherein T-shirts were used by women and children to convey their testimony of those affected by violence.
“The shirts are a testimonial of their experiences, and what I find so touching about it, is so many of them are very hopeful. So we hang the shirts on the square every year on the day of the vigil,” said Smith.
As the vigil came to a close, people were asked to take with them a clipping of a purple plant.
“The idea is that everyone will take a piece of this plant,” said Smith, “and grow it as a year-long reminder of the cause against domestic violence.
“I think that it is critical that we acknowledge those that have lost their lives at the hands of their abusers,” said Smith. “And it is also critical for survivors to acknowledge that life can go on and that there is hope — healthy relationships are possible, even if you have been in an unhealthy relationship in the past.
“This is an issue that cuts across class, race, age, and statistics have revealed that this situation can happen to anyone,” said Smith.
Last year, the New Directions abuse hotline received over 490 crisis calls from women seeking shelter, and provided 641 nights of shelter to local women and their children.
Included in the vigil was a performance by local singer/songwriter Sarah Goslee Reed and the folk trio The Novels. Members of the Delta Teen Advisory Council read a poem and testimony of a domestic violence survivor; an interfaith prayer was led by the Rev. Karl Stevens of St Paul Episcopal Church.