Vigil shines light on domestic abuse and hope for the future

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Dappled sunlight shed through the stained glass window as it snuck over changing tree tops. The room it fell into was donned with purple candles, purple tablecloths and purple cupcakes. Purple–the color of domestic violence awareness.

A candlelight vigil was put on Tuesday night a the Provo Library to remember those who have suffered and died as a result of domestic violence. The event was sponsored by The Utah County Domestic Violence Coalition, partnering with The Center for Women and Children in Crisis. But even more than remembering the problem, the occasion sought to increase awareness about the commonality of domestic violence while presenting options for those in need.

“It’s been said that we don’t have problems with domestic violence in Utah County, and I am here to dispel that myth,” Carole Kamradt, family program coordinator at The Center for Women and Children in Crisis said. “Our shelter has been absolutely full, and we’ve been turning people away by the loads for the last several months, and the need is just getting greater.”

Mayor John R. Curtis also attended the meeting, wearing a purple shirt under his tan colored jacket. Understanding how prevalent and damaging domestic violence is, the mayor officially declared October 2012 as domestic violence awareness month.

He explained some of the many reprimands of domestic abuse on society: children who are abused are more likely to be involved with substance abuse and delinquency, the frequency and severity of domestic abuse will only increase if not addressed now, domestic abuse affects people in schools and the workplace–just to name a few.

“This is a very important issue to all of us,” the mayor said. “Domestic violence is a major concern of our state and nation; it is now the single largest cause of injury to women.”

The mayor asked citizens to extend a hand to those who work with domestic abuse victims.

Like Mayor Curtis, Sachi Jones, Utah County Domestic Violence Coalition Chair believes domestic abuse affects many areas of life.

“Domestic violence is something that impacts us as an entire community,” she said. “Domestic violence is not just physical abuse; it is also verbal abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse and it impacts us in every facet.”

Along with its varying forms, domestic violence also targets various kinds of people.

“It happens everywhere, in every community no matter where you are, how much money you make, where you go to school,” Kamradt said.

This is the same story Ashleigh, a long-time victim of domestic violence told as she explained the demographics of living in a women’s shelter.

“It happens. It happens everywhere,” she said.

Ashleigh spoke in short sentences while she stood at the podium, frequently diverting her eyes, but carrying on in eloquence. It is understandable why.

Ashleigh was in her first of many abusive relationship at age 17. She has since lived in various states at various shelters. Her abuse was both physical and sexual. In one relationship the violence became so elevated that her life was sought by the man she once loved.

“I used to be really closed off. I was perfect for a perpetrator because I already isolated myself,” she said, pinpointing why the abuse continued. In another relationship, there was not initial abuse; it emerged over time.”

When Ashleigh came to Utah, she got involved with the Utah County Domestic Violence Coalition. She took classes the shelter offered. Her children were looked after. She became empowered.

“I had to work on changing myself, and I didn’t have family to go to,” she said. “The shelter programs that I went through, they helped me figure out myself.”

While she admits 30 days in the shelter’s program is not a “cake walk,” it helped her to get to where she is today. Ashleigh graduated from the programs the shelter offered in addition to graduating from college with her bachelor’s degree. She currently works with troubled youth. Ashleigh left the shelter three and a half years ago, but she still returns with her children for counseling meetings every now and again. She believes it is important for her children to attend these meetings because even though they never witnessed the abuse she experienced, they know it happened.

And life has only gotten sweeter.

“Now I have six really close female friends, and that is something I never had. And I still have the support of the shelter when I need it,” she said with a smile.

As the sunlight came through the library window Tuesday night, it was not only a representation light shed on the subject of domestic abuse; it was a representation of the future Ashleigh can continue to have because she got help for the problem she hopes no one else will have to endure.

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