Vigil attracts more than 100 wanting to break the silence

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:06 PM

Nancy Dover, a survivor of domestic violence, said she married young and was very naive. Her husband’s verbal abuse escalated into physical abuse that resulted, in one instance, in a broken collarbone.

“Nothing anyone does justifies violence,” she said. “We’ve come a long way. We recognize how important it is to get help.”

Participants came Thursday night for different reasons to a rally against domestic violence. The evening at the Vance County Courthouse began with a walk and included a candlelight vigil and symbolic release of balloons in a poignant program filled with music, prayer and message.

Speakers repeated to the crowd of more than 100: Silence is not the way to end domestic violence.

Keyachtta Hawkins, a teacher at Northern Vance High School, said her aunt was a victim of domestic violence. She brought several of her students.

One of them, Ashleigh Dixon, said the observance was important “because a lot of lives have been lost. It can happen to anybody.”

Ruth Stith, a retiree, said, “I relate to a lot of these women.”

Myrna Geriege and Meredith Houchins both work in Child Protective Services at Vance County DSS.

“The majority of our cases are domestic violence,” Houchins said.

In her message of hope, District Court Judge Carolyn Yancey had the participants echo the theme: “We will not be silent.” She said she had seen too many families broken by violence because the victims remained silent.

Lt. Irvin Robinson of the Henderson Police Department said 122 homicides in North Carolina were linked to domestic violence in 2012.

Kanika Turrentine, CEO of Infinite Possibilities, said gender, race or social status has no bearing on who is affected.

Mike Rainey, the mayor pro tempore, brought a proclamation from Mayor Pete O’Geary declaring Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city.

“If you see something, speak up,” Rainey said. “Or if you’re a victim, speak up.”

Before releasing purple and white balloons, Jacquetta Bullock, executive director of New Directions Ministries, said Henderson had recently lost Heart’s Haven, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

“We need to work to re-establish a place for them to go,” she said.

As the released balloons floated skyward, she said the white balloons represented the number of North Carolinians murdered as a result of domestic violence. Each purple balloon represented 10 calls related to domestic violence in Vance County.

Cassandra Hart, chairwoman of the Vance County Domestic Violence Committee, called attention to a display of purple shoes of different sizes and styles. Each one represented a person who died as a result of domestic violence, she said.

“If you look closely, you’ll see a shoe this big,” she said, holding her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart. “That represents an infant, a newborn.”

Vance County Director of Social Services Antonia Pedroza said she was pleased with the size of the crowd that came out in spite of cool weather.

“I have the expectation that this will continue to grow and that the silence will end,” Pedroza said.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.