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Shedding light on domestic violence: Family Shelter to hold virtual candlelight vigil

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
Single lit candle with quite flame on black background

Several events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, but one that the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma felt was too vital to cancel was its annual candlelight vigil. 

The vigil, held in remembrance of domestic violence victims and in honor of survivors, will go on, but will be virtual this year. Individuals are asked to post photos of candles, of themselves holding a lit candle, or family and friends they wish to honor during the first two weeks of October. 

Photos should be posted to the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma’s Candlelight Vigil event page on Facebook and tagged with the hashtag #FSSO and a purple heart. Individuals can then share their posts across the web if they choose, and tell their story. 

The month of October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and, like the annual designation, the candlelight vigil is designed to help bring awareness to the struggles victims of domestic violence face and the danger they endure while they are in the situation and once they leave their abusers.

“This is just one that we didn’t want to postpone. This is one that we wanted to have because survivors deserve to be honored and victims deserve to be remembered,” said Family Shelter Director Kathy Manning. “We’re wanting to not only eliminate violence, but also help address the stigma so that people feel that they can come forward and live a life free from abuse."

Domestic violence has only been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Manning said. Many people have been isolated with their abusers and often do not have a way to contact agencies or law enforcement for help. 

Almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by domestic violence, and it’s important for family and friends to pay attention to their surroundings and the people they care about. “It’s important to pay attention to that and be there for someone, listen to them and help them,” Manning said. 

Whether it’s happened to you or someone else that you know, shedding a light on domestic violence can show victims that there are resources for help, and that they should never feel ashamed, Manning said. The Family Shelter has a 24 hour Crisis Hotline number, (580) 226-6424, that victims can call for help. 

Victim advocates at the Family Shelter will work with victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking to help them make a safety plan for leaving, which lowers their risk for lethality. 

“Have that in your pocket and hand that out any time you can because leaving a domestic violence situation is the most dangerous time and we don’t encourage anyone to leave without an advocate’s assistance, to work with an advocate for safety planning,” Manning said. “It is deadly, it’s dangerous and we want people to be safe when they’re making those moves.”

Bringing awareness to domestic violence also helps remind legislators and other officials about the importance of funding programs like the Family Shelter. 

“Federally, funding is being decreased for programs like ours across the state, across the country and it’s important for people to understand the struggles and how hard it is to actually make a difference without that important piece, which is funding,” Manning said. 

For more information about the candlelight vigil or to participate in the vigil, visit the event page on Facebook, titled “Candlelight Vigil to Honor Domestic Violence Victims & Survivors”. “People need to be remembered, people need to be honored and this is just a really great way to do so,” Manning said. 

If you or someone you know experiences domestic violence, The Family Shelter offers free services, including counseling and crisis services. The 24 hour Crisis Hotline number is (580) 226-6424, or individuals can reach out through the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma’s Facebook page, or email at thefamilyshelter@cableone.net.