Vigil to bring awareness to domestic abuse

Mallory Kutnick, Contributing Writer

In any given year, Housing, Outreach, Prevention and Education of East Central Illinois will support up to 700 domestic violence recipients spanning seven counties.

Not all reach out, however, and not all live through such ordeals.

In observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, HOPE will hold a candlelight vigil Thursday at 6 p.m. at Morton Park.

Angie Hunt, the Charleston-based program’s housing director, said music will precede the vigil proper, which is set to begin at 7 p.m. and normally lasts up to an hour.

“We are honoring all victims who have been lost to domestic violence and all those who have survived,” Hunt said. “Our goal is to honor and remember those who have been taken from us by abusers and to let anyone experiencing abuse know that we are here for them.”

The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” They list such violence as any combination of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and/or economic abuse.

As far as HOPE is concerned, domestic violence need not occur between lovers, as was the case for one Reagan Williams of Tilton, killed in 2006 by her mother’s then-boyfriend at the age of two.

Some cases of domestic violence involve blemishing the victim’s self-worth, controlling their personal finances, damaging their relationships with others, intimidating them or isolating them from the outside world, including family and friends.

In addition to its namesake housing, outreach, prevention and education, HOPE also provides counseling, safety planning, legal support, children’s advocacy, intervention, transportation, a walk-in program and referrals to other organizations within the communities they serve (Coles, Clark, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Moultrie and Shelby counties).

Their shelter in Charleston houses up to 24 people and features bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and various amenities such as toys, books and a TV. Here, their clients can go about their everyday lives while receiving safety support and the peace of mind provided by “state-of-the-art” security.

The shelter is open to abused or homeless women and children, and they are welcome to stay for around a month. Clients are then welcome to spend up to two years in HOPE’s Transitional Housing Program, in which they work to improve budgeting and job skills and save enough money to relocate to permanent housing by the end of their stay.

HOPE also runs a toll-free 24-hour crisis hotline at 888-345-3990.

Mallory Kutnick can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].