Victims of domestic abuse recognized Thursday

Advocates has helped nearly 300 people this year

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— Editor's note: Some of the subjects in this story are identified by first name only to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.

The anonymous black silhouettes that stood on the courthouse lawn Thursday were attempts to give domestic violence a face.

The 15 plywood cutouts were the shapes of women and children who have stayed in Steamboat's shelter. And the sayings attached to the figures were words Diane Moore has heard pass through the shelter in her years with Advocates Against Battering and Abuse.

"We talk about numbers and programs but we sometimes don't talk enough about the impact on individual people in our community. Part of this presentation is what survivors say and feel," said Moore, who is the executive director of the organization.

When Moore sat down at her computer Thursday morning, it didn't take long for her to write the words of fear, grief and triumph that came from the women and children who have come in contact with Advocates since 1983.

Some were heartbreaking "The first time he hit me was on our honeymoon."

Others were hopeful "I am 44 years old, I just left a 20-year abusive marriage."

And a few were from the mouths of children "Maybe if I make threats, mom will listen to me. It worked for dad."

The black cutouts and the words from survivors of domestic violence were part of Advocates walk and candlelight vigil Thursday night.

Courtney and her 3-year-old son, Ezra, were part of the crowd of 30 people that made its way down Lincoln Avenue in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Courtney was also one of the many who has stayed in the shelter. She said attending Thursday's vigil was one way of showing support.

"This is so important. They really helped us when I came here from a bad situation," she said.

So far this year, Moore said Advocates has helped nearly 300 victims.

But Moore said in a community as beautiful and blessed as Steamboat, people forget domestic violence occurs.

Advocates recognizes the month of October as a way to honor those who have died and survived as a result of domestic violence.

"Nineteen years later, domestic violence is not a family secret, yet it is still an issue that people still don't want to talk about," Moore said. "This is really about getting the issue out there and reminding people that violence happens in our community."

It is not a family secret for Cassandra, who brought her children Genevieve and Collin to the vigil.

Cassandra said she was a victim of childhood abuse, and Thursday night was a way to open up a discussion with her children about abuse and who it effects.

"It is important to know it is not a big secret, that it is something that is normal for children from families (of abuse) to learn how they can get out of the situation."

The black cutouts that stood on the courthouse lawn will be placed in public buildings throughout Steamboat this month. Advocates will also sponsor an art exhibit "The Faces of Courage," which opens Oct. 18 and featuring art from survivors of domestic violence.

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