PARKERSBURG - A small crowd gathered outside West Virginia University at Parkersburg Wednesday for a candlelight vigil in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
More than 50 people attended the event, organized by the WVU-P Criminal Justice program. Two survivors of domestic violence shared their stories with those in attendance.
"It's important to raise awareness and break the silence," said Drew Kefeli, event organizer. "One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women. These are troubling statistics."
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Luminarias line the sidewalk in front of WVU-P. The 29 luminarias represent the people who lost their lives to domestic violence last year in West Virginia.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Celena Roby, a domestic violence survivor and author of Celena’s Law, speaks to a crowd Wednesday during a candlelight vigil.
Luminarias lined the sidewalk in front of WVU-P, each one representing a person who lost her life to domestic violence last year. The 29 luminarias were made by inmates at the St. Marys Correctional Center.
Diane Shingler, a correctional counselor at St. Marys Correctional Center, works with inmates accused of domestic violence. As a childhood survivor of domestic violence, Shingler said her job is rewarding.
"I feel as though I am doing my part to break the silence," she said. "I've attended this vigil almost every year since 2006. For me, this is about remembrance, education and change."
Celena Roby, a domestic violence survivor and author of Celena's Law, spoke about the 11 years she spent in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship.
"At 18 years old I thought I had met a man that held my every laugh and every hope. I married him at 19," said Roby.
Over the years, the relationship became more controlling, until one day when her abuser beat her and held her against her will in a bathroom, while her two young sons stood outside crying.
"I made a promise to myself that I would no longer be a puppet," she said. "By the grace of God, I escaped, with only $12 in my pocket. I packed up my boys and we left to start a new life."
Roby was instrumental in the passage of Celena's Law, a piece of legislation she drafted on a Post-it note one afternoon. In June 2011, the bill became law.
Under Celena's Law, those found guilty of first-degree unlawful restraint would face up to a year in prison and up to a $500 fine. The law was modeled after legislation in 38 states that makes unlawful restraint a misdemeanor.
This is the third year of the Clothesline Project, where stories are told through dozens of colored T-shirts hanging on clotheslines. Each T-shirt color represents a different story.
Beige is for women who have been battered or assaulted, white for those who have died of violence, red for those who have been raped or sexually assaulted and purple for those who have been attacked because of their sexual orientation.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the national domestic violence hotline at (800) 794-2335 or contact the Family Crisis Intervention Center at 304-428-2333.