Lights for peace, safety at home

YWCA backs awareness of domestic violence

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Domestic Violence 101

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Domestic violence awareness month window poster

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SafeChoice Services

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Domestic violence doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care about your age, your ethnicity, how much money you have or your social status — or even if you're Ms. Oregon Plus America.

Of course, Veronica Child didn't seek her pageant crown until after the cycle of abuse ended. The 35-year-old mother of two told her story of leaving domestic violence at YWCA Clark County's annual kick-off ceremony for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For four years, Child stayed in an abusive relationship that kept her out of the limelight. In fact, she said, she mostly just stayed at home. She stopped hanging out with her friends, stopped playing softball and was forced to give up her possessions.

She stayed with her boyfriend because they had a daughter together and because she believed she had nowhere to go. "I just felt lost," Child said. "I kind of lost my soul."

SafeChoice

When her boyfriend hit rock bottom and started abusing drugs and alcohol, she kicked him out. She began attending Al-Anon, a support group for people who are close to substance abusers, and someone encouraged her to join the YWCA Clark County's SafeChoice program.

At the first meeting, it hit her that she was in a cycle of abuse without realizing it. The program helped her recognize her relationship wasn't healthy and gave her the strength and support to end it. After assistance from the YWCA, she started venturing out of the house again. She volunteered, saw her friends again and was approached by a pageant director. With her win at the Ms. Oregon Plus America competition, opportunities came up, including plus-sized modeling gigs.

This year the YWCA is focusing its outreach efforts on the faith community and neighborhood associations. Local businesses and organizations are encouraged to hang black or purple lights in their windows this month to remember victims, support survivors and bring hope to those living with abuse. Purple represents the bruises domestic violence victims receive at the hands of their abusers.

Council participation

Vancouver Councilor Jeanne Stewart spoke at Tuesday's event to reaffirm that Vancouver is committed to reducing the prevalence of domestic violence. The YWCA approached her with a proclamation that will likely appear on an upcoming council agenda.

At the end of the evening, during the lighting ceremony, everyone took a moment of silence to recognize three Clark County residents killed in 2012 as a result of domestic violence: Cheryl Honey, 57, who was shot by her fiancé who then shot and killed himself; Mark Williams, 55, who was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by his wife of 33 years; and Nita Frye, 67, who was shot twice by her husband after he learned she had her own plans for the couple's money in light of their planned divorce.