Candlelight vigil to honor victims, survivors of domestic violence

Hannah Shillo, Staff Reporter

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HOPE of East Central Illinois is hosting the annual candlelight vigil from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Morton Park to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence.

HOPE is a domestic violence service provider offering housing, 24-hour confidential sheltering, a 24-hour crisis hotline and transitional housing opportunities.

Kelly Hardy, executive director of HOPE, said people who come to the shelter often do not have many financial resources, which is where HOPE comes in and offers help to victims of domestic violence.

“It is a life-changing experience to go from nothing to something,” she said.

Angie Hunt, direct services coordinator of HOPE, said October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so that is why HOPE hosts the candlelight vigil during this month each year.

“We like to open (the event) up for anyone to be able to speak, read poetry and talk about their experiences,” she said. “One of the things we’ve added is we read the names of victims who have lost their lives at the hands of their abusers.”

Hunt said HOPE will honor the fallen victims throughout Coles, Clark, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Moultrie and Shelby counties.

Hardy said the clothesline project, created by survivors, will be on display at the vigil as well.

Hunt said the clothesline project is a powerful display of around 100 t-shirts made by survivors of domestic violence, both children and adults.

“It’s kind of an art project, but also a chance for (survivors) to say what they want the public to know,” Hunt said. “Some talk about their experiences and abuse, some talk about their experiences and healing, what their life was like then and what their life is like now. It’s really a very powerful display.”

Hardy said the presentation is a way that survivors can share their own stories.

“(The shirts) are all kind of different, but they are very personal to the person that created them,” she said.

Hunt said the vigil is important not only for victims, but survivors as well.

“We always want to show survivors who are currently going through abuse that we are supporting them and care about them,” she said. “We also want to honor those who have lost their lives.”

Hunt said she hopes there will be great involvement at the event, both in the community and from Eastern’s campus.

“We know there are a lot of people out there who care about victims and our agency,” she said. “We would love to see them come out and show that support.”

Hardy said anyone who is seeking advice or help about domestic violence should call the crisis hotline at 1-888-345-3990.

“We all like to think that leaving is the (only) answer,” she said, “but for some people that may not be the safest decision, so what we will do is walk you through a safety plan and make sure what you’re doing is in fact the safest thing.”

Hunt said safety planning is one of the most important things and that people can remain anonymous when calling the crisis line.

“It’s really hard to take that first step in getting help,” she said. “We are just going to listen, talk about their options and provide the support that they need.”

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].