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Harmony House holds vigil for domestic violence victims

A crowd gathered at Lafayette Square on Tuesday night in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The event remembered the 166 victims of domestic violence who died in Georgia in 2019, while raising awareness for those trapped in those situations today.

Michele Bedingfield, executive director of Harmony House, said none of those deaths were in Troup County.

“Currently, Georgia is tenth in the nation for domestic violence,” Bedingfield said. “Georgia has got a lot of work to do.”

Harmony House is a state of Georgia certified emergency shelter servicing victims of domestic violence and has been in operation since February 2005.

According to statistics shared at the vigil, about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 7 men in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

Harmony House provides a safe place for victims to go to.

“The point of this is to remember those that have lost their life,” Bedingfield said. “It’s to encourage those who might still be in it, and just haven’t found a way out yet … reach out to someone. The third reason we do this is to celebrate. Celebrate the lives of those that have survived. There are survivors among us.”

Bedingfield said it is a joyous occasion to know that there are survivors among the community that she sees and knows their past.

“Seeing and knowing what path they’ve gone through, the life that they’re living now and what is ahead of them is exciting,” Bedingfield said.

Harmony House programs are designed to support residential clients, victims that seek emergency shelter, and outreach clients — victims who do not want or need emergency shelter but who are in need of program services.

Law enforcement and locals who work with domestic violence victims stood alongside survivors that they have helped at the vigil.

“If we can encourage someone to step up and speak out, we are preventing a fatality,” Bedingfield said. “We’re preventing them from being that next statistic.”

Despite the pandemic, Harmony House hasn’t skipped a beat.

Since March, Harmony House has continued to work with survivors. Bedingfield said they have spent more than $16,000 to house people that needed to get out of abusive situations through short-term rentals, hotels and apartments.

To get help at Harmony House, just call (706) 885-1525. It’s free, confidential and available 24/7.