Light a candle for victims

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The statistics on domestic violence are staggering.

About one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. About three in four Americans know someone who has been or is currently a victim of domestic violence. Health care costs resulting from domestic violence exceed $5.8 billion every year, according to the Genieve Shelter.

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Genieve Shelter is taking steps to make sure it stays in people’s hearts and minds.

The Genieve Shelter, a shelter and resource for victims of domestic violence, is holding a candlelight vigil at the Shooting Star Gallery, 118 N. Main St., on Thursday at 6 p.m. The public is invited to come support the cause, said Genieve Shelter community educator Melissa Hedelius.

“The vigil is to raise community awareness about domestic violence, remember those we have lost and honor those who have gotten out safely,” Hedelius said. “People are more than welcome to come and participate. They don’t have to be victims themselves, they can know someone (who has been a victim) or just want to support the cause.”

The vigil will feature comments from a domestic violence survivor, as well as Mayor Linda T. Johnson making a proclamation in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In addition, representatives from the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office will comment on how domestic violence affects their work. At the end of the program, participants will light candles and have a moment of silence, Hedelius said.

The event is crucial to keeping the dangers of domestic violence in the forefront, Hedelius added.

“It’s important, because domestic violence is one of those things that historically has not been talked about in public,” Hedelius said. “It’s been going on forever … but it’s something people are still ashamed to tell people they are a victim of. It’s almost like a disease you don’t want people to know that you have.”

Like others, the Genieve Shelter has struggled this year with decreasing grant money, but increasing demand for its services, Hedelius said. The Genieve Shelter serves Suffolk, Franklin, Smithfield and Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry counties.

“It’s been a harsher year so far, partly because of the economy,” Hedelius said. “We’re just trying to start a dialogue about it, because it is something that needs to be spoken about.”

In addition to Thursday’s candle lighting ceremony, the Genieve Shelter will hold a fundraising event at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. Funds will go toward the construction of “CJ’s Place,” a new four-apartment unit for transitional housing for victims of domestic violence.

The event will include a live auction and wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres and music by the Suffolk Strings. Attire is semi-formal, and tickets are available for a donation of $50. The guest speaker fr the evening will be Tiffany Daniels, a Smithfield native and auto racer.

For more information about the candle lighting ceremony, call 925-4365. For more information on the fundraiser, call 539-8771.