A crowd gathered in the Nelson Center last week for a candlelight vigil to honor and remember those who have been victims of domestic violence.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Each year for the past six or seven years, a candlelight vigil has been organized in Nelson to kickstart the month of awareness, to let those struggling know they aren’t alone, and to honor those who have died due to domestic violence.
More than 20 people gathered Oct. 2 to hear testimony from survivors, learn about resources available to domestic violence victims and to remember those who are no longer here. Linda Ellis-Williams, director of programs at the YWCA of Central Virginia, said it’s important to let the community know about this national issue and where to get help in Nelson.
“We want to let people know we care,” Ellis-Williams said.
Ellis-Williams said this year, the theme is ‘see something, say something.’ She said no one should be afraid to contact authorities or reach out to a friend or neighbor, safely, if they suspect they are in need of help.
“Don’t be silent,” Ellis-Williams said.
Along with Ellis-Williams, a handful of people spoke including Beth Cunningham, director of the Nelson County victim-witness program; Daniel Rutherford, commonwealth’s attorney; and a survivor.
“Anyone who cares is an advocate,” Rutherford told the crowd.
Rutherford went on to explain what he and his office can do for anyone in trouble and how they work with law enforcement and Cunningham’s office.
“We would rather crime be prevented than catch a bad guy,” Rutherford said.
Cunningham told the crowd that her office served 168 cases last year and 70% of those were domestic violence cases.
“Nelson County’s domestic violence numbers are less than the national average, but one case is one too many,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said the national average is one in three women have been victims of domestic violence, or about 35%. Cunningham said the national average numbers come from the CDC, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
Cunningham told the audience the ripple of domestic violence is so far reaching, which is why it’s important to show community support.
The crowd included Nelson County Sheriff David Hill, Republican Sheriff Candidate Daniel Jones, founder of the Nelson County Domestic Violence Task Force the Rev. Marion Kanour from Grace Episcopal Church and Unity in Community President Dee Dee Green. At the end of the speeches, they gathered in a circle, each holding a lit candle, and sang “Amazing Grace” before Green said a closing prayer.
“We want the community and people that may be going through this to see that people care,” Ellis-Williams said.
Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.