By Brandi Underwood
The soft glow of candlelight illuminated the faces of several community members at this month’s Women’s Resource Center 23rd annual Candlelight Vigil, as the 23 victims lost to domestic violence in West Virginia in the past year were honored by name and candle flame.
As October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, WRC Director Patricia Bailey said the purple ribbons pinned on the blouses, blazers and lapels of every individual in attendance served a crucial purpose.
“Awareness is key to ending domestic violence,” she said. “It’s very important to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in West Virginia as a result of domestic violence, as well as celebrate those who have survived.”
The event left many attendees with a heavy heart, especially after the keynote speaker, Erica Hamb, of Beckley, recounted the story of her mother, Theresa Wilson, who died from domestic abuse in 2012.
Wilson, who grew up with an abusive father, was a victim of violence from even her youngest years, Hamb said.
Hamb attributes the abusive actions that occurred in the beginning of Wilson’s life as the cause of the endless cycle of domestic violence that continued in her life until her untimely death.
For that reason, she cited programs like the Women’s Resource Center as being highly beneficial for children and women like her mother, where they can seek help and protection.
“It may or may not help survivors or victims’ families cope, but I think that this event helps them to know that they are not alone,” said Bailey. “Other people and families have experienced this too, and other people care about their situation and their loss.”
Bailey said that one-third of all homicides in West Virginia are related to domestic violence, and more than two-thirds of women murdered in West Virginia are killed by a family or household member.
Although typically West Virginia ranks around 15th on the list of domestic violence cases by state, this year, West Virginia ranked eighth.
“That is not a statistic that we would like to see continue,” Bailey said.
“During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the Women’s Resource Center, which serves Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas and Summers counties, worked with 3,226 domestic violence victims; 533 of those victims were children,” Bailey said.
As part of the ceremony, the WRC awarded several Incite Hope Awards to community members who have gone out of their way to combat and spread awareness of the domestic violence issue.
This year’s Incite Hope Award winners included Beckley Police Detective Morgan Bragg, the Nicholas County Bureau of Child and Family (CPS), Oak Hill Police Chief Michael W. Whisman Jr., Summers County Sheriff Garry Wheeler, Lester Elementary School staff, Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital Emergency Room nurse Catherine Boggs and Dr. Jim Kyle and Barbara Kyle with The Kyle Group.
“This region really is blessed,” Bragg said after receiving his award, describing the hard work of the WRC.
Bragg said that if anyone should receive an award, it should be WRC’s compassionate and dedicated staff.
For more information on WRC, call 304-255-4066 or visit www.wrcwv.org.
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