By Brian Graves, Staff Writer
Monday, October 29, 2012 —
The smoke off the extinguished candles was as much a reminder of the spirits of those lost to domestic violence as the flames that were extinguished represented their lives.
There were 43 to be exact and Esther House brought together a group Thursday night to remember their stories and to pray for guidance in helping those who suffer that torture.
Esther House, which operates under the auspices of the Homes for Hope organization, brings together survivors, volunteers and professionals to help with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We are really proud of the success we’ve had this year,” said Jeannie Langston, Esther House director.
She said during the first year of the House’s existence, the shelter served 92 women and children, 43 of those being children.
“There were 397 911 calls that came into Stanly County in the past year that were domestic violence related,” she said.
Langston said 170 were served through the court advocacy system and 19 sexual assault victims received counseling.
“But tonight is all about remembering those that have lost their lives and to remember they were real people that leave behind real families,” she said.
“Until you look into the eyes of the bereaved and realize how this devastates families, not only the individual that’s lost their life, but the people they’ve left behind, you don’t realize the pain associated with each and every name that we’re going to read tonight.”
Langston said the goal of Esther House was to see lives saved and see the victims freed from the cycle of violence they find themselves in and to help them transition into a life of independence and violence-free.
“It’s not just about numbers, it’s about lives. They deserve our honor,” she said.
Barbara Thomas spoke to the gathering saying she was addressing the group as a survivor.
“Domestic violence has no face. It transcends all ethnicities, gender or religion. It does not discriminate for age or social economic status. It is not predictable,” Thomas said.
She added that every 15 seconds a woman is abused in the United States.
“But never in my wildest dreams [would I have thought] I would need to be educated in domestic violence,” Thomas said.
She told the story of how she had everything going for success, but lost it all.
Thomas said she has now gone back to school at Stanly Community College, has made the president’s list and is now helping those who are suffering from domestic violence.
“This is now my mission,” Thomas said.
“There is hope.”
At the conclusion of her presentation, the audience was given candles that were lit to honor the lives of those lost.
During the reading of the victims’ names, each candle was extinguished.
Two balloons were then released. One was purple, the color for domestic violence awareness. And the other was yellow, representing hope.
To contact Esther House for more information, contacted the main office at (704) 985-1073.
Anyone needing help or someone to talk with can call the hotline at (704) 961-7500.