Wednesday evening, staff along with volunteers from Safe Haven and members of the public walked from the old Milford Library to the Pike County Court House as part of, "Silent No More," a march and candlelight vigil to honor the victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The Executive Director for Safe Haven, Dave Bever said part of the purpose for the vigil was to help people find their voice. To recognize the victims of domestic violence, staff from Safe Haven read a few stories that were clipped from newspapers. Acknowledging what was reported within the stories may have been difficult for some who were in attendance, Bever said it is important that people understand the full, "scope of this epidemic," which is also the number one injury to women in Pike County, he said.
Reverend Mary Ellen Dolan from the Church of the Good Shepard and St. John the Evangelist led the invocation where she told of Harold Pinter, an English playwright, social activist and poet who wrote, "No Man's Land," a play that suggests people should be free of anger and guilt that domestic violence causes. Instead, people should have thoughts of love and peace, Pinter wrote. For those who don't follow a faith, Dolan said people may also find peace from their friends and families.
In 2012, Bever reported from newspaper articles collected by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence that 47 women and 10 men were killed as a result of domestic violence in the commonwealth. The number, he said, may give people hope because it has decreased in half from five years previous.
One story, was that of a woman who was killed by her live-in boyfriend during a drunken fight over noodles. Initially, the man denied the charges until he was told of the victim's autopsy results. A mother of two, the victim was pushed into a door jamb, then kicked in the chest because her husband was upset that they were out of beer. The husband told police that he offered to call an ambulance but the victim refused before he fell asleep. When he awoke, he found the victim unresponsive. Together for 10 years, the man beat the victim throughout the relationship and she had actually had surgery to reconstruct her face. The autopsy reported that the woman died from blunt force trauma to the head and comprehension injuries of the chest and the abdomen.
Another story was that of a 17 year old girl who was murdered by her 19 year old boyfriend when he learned that she was pregnant. Driving at 100 mph, both persons were in the car, when the boyfriend drove the car into a guardrail. Following the crash, he smothered her by sitting on his girlfriend's head. An on and off again relationship, the boyfriend allegedly pushed her into walls and down stairs in the past. Prior to her death, he faced charges of simple assault for allegedly running over his girlfriend's foot, along with two counts of giving explicit sexual materials to a minor for texting photos and videos of the woman.
Page 2 of 2 - To recognize the survivors, the staff read more stories that told of the, "voices that were triumphant in the face of domestic violence," said Bever. Married for 16 years, one woman was stalked by her husband as their marriage fell apart. She was called the, "perfect victim," because she did everything she was told, such as not staying, starting a new life with her children, remarrying and never contacting her ex-husband. She did everything the system told her, yet her ex-husband continued to stalk her for 10 years. Finally, he was sent to state prison for the stalking and after the last hearing, she asked if it was over. It was, for a time of five to 10 years, which was the ex-husbands sentencing.
Director of Client Services, Elisabeth Heij told the story of a woman who was married to her abuser for 20 years. The husband burnt the family's home down and hired an attorney who assisted him with insurance work and such details. He died a year later, leaving his six children and wife stranded. But, rather than giving up hope, the woman was empowered to help herself and her family, which she did by taking advantage of available programs. She is currently pursing a Masters Degree in social work as she plans to help others.
Following the readings, people lit candles in recognition of domestic violence victims. Together, the staff of Safe Haven lit a, "unity candle" because 40 years ago, organizations like Safe Haven didn't exist, Bever said. Instead, there were merely a few groups of battered women who helped one another. To symbolize the growth and achievement made by organizations like Safe Haven, staff lit candles from one another as a representation of, "the strength of women coming together," Bever explained.
The women who started such programs, he said, usually didn't have anything more than, "gumption and a sense of justice," that helped them excel and move on. The unity candle, he explained was placed in the center of the table to symbolize movement and strength that comes in numbers when people support each other.
For more information about Safe Haven call (570) 296-2827 or visit http://www.safehavenofpikecounty.org/.