Candlelight Vigil honors commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
For 18 years, the Blount County Task Force Against Domestic Violence has sponsored a candlelight vigil to honor and commemorate domestic violence victims, as well as bring awareness to a very sensitive issue.
They are not about to stop now.
This year’s event will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the victim’s garden in front of the Blount County Justice Center on East Lamar Alexander Parkway. This year, a tribute will be made to the founding members of the task force, as well as the First Responders Unit.
Music will be provided by students from Heritage High School, including two of them playing a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the bag pipes.
“Our vigil is held to honor the victims; men, women and children, who have survived domestic violence and to remember those who lost their lives at the hands of someone claiming to love them,” said Jennifer Shudan, domestic violence investigator for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and task force chairwoman. “So often, when the news covers an Intimate Partner Homicide, there is usually someone who says the murderer was such a nice person and how unbelievable the crime is to them. Abusers are not “monsters” at work, or at family gatherings or social gatherings, but no one truly knows what they are like behind the closed doors. What we feel is the ‘safety of our home,’ may be a place of pure terror for a victim.
“Leaving is not always an option right away,” Shudan continued. “Some victims are lucky enough to have the financial means or family support to leave an abusive situation. Some victims are not so lucky and may be isolated from the family and have not been allowed to work. The candlelight vigil tells victims we are here to help — when they are ready for the help.”
Judy Humphrey, former victim’s advocate for Blount County District Attorney Mike Flynn and a task force member, said she worked for 17 years in Flynn’s office and worked in the position until she retired and was replaced by Monica Aistrop, who also serves as the task force’s co-treasurer.
“We have a close working relationship, and I highly respect what Monica does with domestic violence,” said Humphrey, who visited The Daily Times Tuesday along with Aistrop to promote the candlelight vigil.
“We feel like it takes a community to bring domestic violence out into the light, just like it takes a village to raise a child, as Hillary Clinton says. We want to thank them for the work they do on a daily basis. The light we are trying to shine on domestic violence belongs on the candlelight vigil.”
“Without knowing the education and the cycle of violence, and why victims return, it’s hard to understand,” Aistrop said.
Humphrey and Aistrop said that more men and elderly people are coming to the forefront as domestic violence victims.
“(Some young people) are starting to abuse their parents,” Humphrey said. “They have drug or alcohol issues, and they don’t have money and don’t work. They will ask their parents or grandparents, and when they don’t give them money, they assault them. We are seeing a lot more of that now. Older abuse is becoming more prominent.
Men report abuse
“Because what we are being told in the community, the men are coming forward,” Humphrey added, “where as before they were more hesitant and embarrassed. When we did the (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) proclamation signing, and where people write comments on the newspaper articles online, one of the first comments was from a man saying, ‘You know this happens to men, too.’”
Humphrey said there’s only one thing that keeps the task force going.
“Domestic violence. It’s not gone,” she said. “The group ebbs and flows every year. We have a core group that sticks it out and we have other groups that come and drop out.”
“We get different leadership, and it doesn’t happen every year,” Aistrop said. “I agree with Judy that domestic violence is what’s keeping us going. I doubt I will ever see it (the end to domestic violence) in my lifetime, or if she will ever see it. If this generation of children grow up and witness it, then they will become the victim or the abusers. The point is we need to educate these children so we can stop it, just like stopping drugs. They are our future — they can stop domestic violence with education and help in the community.”