Brilliant tea-light candles in the palms of dozens of people shone in honor of victims and survivors of domestic violence at Central Park Monday evening.

The vigil, organized by the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was renewed after a year hiatus. Nearly 100 people gathered in support of those affected by abuse, the strength of whom is indescribable for interim executive director Kathy Manning.

“I don’t even know how to put it into words. These women we work with are so inspiring,” Manning said. “We need to bring awareness back for abuse that does not discriminate.”

As children played and cool winds whistled through a comfortable October night, a somber tone befell the park as advocates against domestic violence and for its awareness recited poems and recounted experiences of facing dire consequences.

District Attorney Craig Ladd was among speakers on stage at Central Park surrounded by silhouette displays of victims and their stories.

“We are reminded by these silhouettes of death and the most serious offenses,” Ladd said. “But in the last six years, we’ve seen a decline in deaths that were caused by domestic abuse.”

Ladd highlighted what he discerns as stronger intolerance for domestic violence in society  among constituents in his five-county district. 

In Ladd’s first five years as district attorney he dealt with 12 homicides, eight of which he said stemmed from domestic abuse. In the past six years, he has dealt with 16 homicides with only three stemming from domestic abuse.

Ladd also charged the audience to stay resolute in seeking justice. Too many times offenders have not been brought to justice when victims ultimately refuse to press charges.

“I want to challenge all of you to hold people accountable,” Ladd said. “You’ve got to stick with us.”

Manning said The Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma annually helps about 400 women and children combined, but believes there are many more who need to be made aware of the resources available to them.

These resources include a 24-hour crisis line at 1-580-226-6424 that anybody can call for immediate assistance, as well as certified domestic violence and sexual assault programs offering services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Manning and others urged vigil-goers to be aware of these opportunities for those enduring harsh relationships, and to be more open-minded toward people and their unique living situations.

“If tonight’s efforts save one life, it was worth it,” Manning said. “We need to increase knowledge, save lives, listen more and judge less.”