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YWCA Vigil Honors Michigan Domestic Violence Victims

October 4, 2010

Forty-seven. That’s the average number of people murdered by someone they love each year in Michigan. Experts estimate that the number is actually double. And, these numbers do not reflect the additional victims left behind—children, parents, other family members and friends.

On Friday October 1, YWCA West Central Michigan Domestic Violence Services and Safe Haven Ministries held a candlelight vigil to remember these victims of domestic violence. The event opened with a two-scene skit. Six women held signs up identifying their role: teacher, pastor, friend, employer and others. In scene one, as the woman playing the role of domestic violence victim approached them for help, each gave an excuse not to get involved and turned her back. Another woman, playing the role of abuser, then verbally attacked the victim, convincing her to come back to the relationship. In scene two, each person offered support to the victim, and encircled her. When the abuser returned, the victim was able to stand firm.

“As a community, it’s important we surround people who are experiencing abuse and provide support so instead of feeling isolated and alone they have more safety and support,” explains Eileen McKeever, program director of YWCA Domestic Violence Crisis Services.

People often blame victims of domestic violence by asking, “Why does she (or sometime, he) stay in the relationship?” This skit aptly illustrated how victims are held in a web of abuse comprised of many strings: love, money, religion and family expectations as well as the isolation and destruction of self-esteem that their abusers impose upon on them. When families, friends, employers and spiritual advisors stand with the victim, these strings can be broken, one by one.

In conclusion, the names and brief stories of the 47 victims were read aloud.  They included a senior in high school killed by her boyfriend; a 76-year-old wife with dementia; a pregnant 19 year-old; a police officer shot by her husband, also a police officer; a young mother and her four-year-old son; and three men. “The synopsis of newspaper articles giving the stories of the lives of the victims contained in this report does not convey the complicated experience of torment and violence victims experienced,” the skit’s narrator said. “These stories also cannot reveal to us all the ways victims protected their children, reached out to various systems for help, how long they were afraid, begged not to be hurt or screamed for help before their lives ended.  These images help renew our determination to continue working toward a world free of domestic violence.”

The YWCA staffs a 24-Hour confidential crisis line for victims of domestic violence, 616.451.2744. They also offer free intervention, referrals and safety planning; free emergency shelter; counseling services; support groups; supervised parenting time and safe child exchange; and long-term housing and supportive services. For non-emergency information, call 616.459.4652 during business hours.

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