LaGrange hosts annual domestic violence vigil on square

Published 5:02 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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While many think of October as the return of fall leaves, Halloween and everything pumpkin spice, it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which aims to remind people stuck in abusive relationships that there is help and that they’re not alone.

The Troup County Domestic Violence Task Force held its annual candlelight vigil on Tuesday evening to remember those who have lost lives to domestic violence and remind victims of abuse that they are not alone and that there is help and support available.

“It’s a time to encourage those that are in abusive relationships, to remember those that didn’t survive one, but also to celebrate all the people that had been in one and were able to get out and escape that abusive relationship and live to tell their story and encourage others,” said Michele Bedingfield, Executive Director of Harmony House.

For those who want to help, Bedingfield said the biggest thing is to learn how to be a bystander by learning to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships and have conversations with the person who’s being abused and recognize that abuse doesn’t always have to be physical. It can be emotional, it can be mental or it can be verbal.

“People might say they don’t want to get involved. It’s not my business. I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I don’t want to say something. There are so many reasons why they wouldn’t say something,” she said.

During the vigil, the Kappa Alpha Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority provided more than a hundred reasons to step up and say something. They read the names of 148 people in Georgia who died because of domestic abuse last year.

“Every single domestic violence fatality they reviewed, someone knew of the abuse. They didn’t do anything because they were uncomfortable with it, or didn’t do something because they were afraid for their own safety,” Bedingfield said. “So if you know of someone that’s being abused, stand up and say something or reach out to Harmony House and we’ll be more than happy to help you through that conversation or we can reach out to that person individually.”

Anti-domestic violence advocate Marvin Broadwater Sr. of Columbus served as guest speaker for the event. 

Broadwater made a challenge to men, that they need to step up and speak out against domestic violence. 

“A lot of time people think of domestic violence as a woman’s issue, and that women need to take care of the women and women are the ones that are in this movement. This movement needs men to step up too and play a role in ending domestic violence,” Bedingfield said. “Men listen to other men,  so they can say something to other men and it’s going to be heard a lot differently than if I walk up and say it.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 37.4% of Georgia women and 30.4% of Georgia men experience intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence and/or stalking in their lifetimes.