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Victims gather to tell their stories

There were plenty of ice cold temperatures, chilling winds and tears at Desloge Park Saturday night as dozens affected by domestic violence gathered to remember. 

Southeast Missouri Family Violence Council helped raise awarenesss of domestic violence by holding a candlelight vigil Saturday at Desloge Park.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Brandon Scheriffus sang and played the guitar. Women took turns telling their stories.

Vicky Stevens found a safe haven in what used to be called New Way Shelter 10 years ago.

Stevens was a victim of domestic violence while married to her husband of 20 years.

At one point, she said her back looked like that of a slave, because of the bruises and lacerations made from a belt her husband used.

I wasn’t allowed to see my friends of family, she said.

Then he made a mistake, she said. He moved us south to Bonne Terre, she continued.

Once in Bonne Terre, the beating continued, but neighbors called the police, who suggested she talk to the ladies at SEMO Family Violence Council.

“It gave me a safe place to stay,” she said.

Stevens is now the victim’s advocate for the shelter. She has completed her bachelors in social work and is working on her master’s degree.

Next, Vicky’s son, James took the stage to tell a child’s point of view of domestic violence.

“I don’t remember alot,” he said. “But I remember enough.”

“He’d yell at her all the time, for stupid stuff and it got to the point where I thought he1d kill her,” he said.

When the family moved, James ran to the neighbors to call the cops. He said he was scared all the time.

“Then we moved to the shelter,” he smiled. “There, I was able to feel safe and talk to other kids who were going through the same things I was.”

”My mom and I were able to become mother and son again, not distant friends,” he said.

Now James is in boy scouts, Upward Bound and is applying for financial aid for college. He volunteers on Mondays to talk to the children at the shelter, now called A Friend’s Place.

“It can mess up a child, but if help is got in time, they turn out ok,” he said.

After James, a woman told the crowd she had been a victim most of her life. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with hitting and screaming, until she had children of her own.

“It almost took dying in front of my 10-month-old daughter to get the help I needed,” she said.

She said she never knew there was help out there.

Southeast Missouri Family Violence Council helped her turn her life around and helped her learn to live a normal life the way it is supposed to be, she told the crowd.

“No one’s hit me in over a year. I stand up for myself now. I’ve never been able to do that before,” she said slowly.

“I still get scared, but I call the girls at the SEMO and they remind me it is fine,” she continued.

As she fights off tears, she said that people don’t talk enough about domestic violence.

“I wish someone asked me if I was ok. I wish when I came to work with bruises, they didn’t believe me when I told them I got in a fight at a bar,” she said.

16-year-old Paige, full of life, eagerly took the stage, as the crowd continued to brave the cold night air to hear the survivors of domestic violence.

“I was engaged to a 19-year-old who thought hitting and choking me was fine,” she said.

It got worse as the relationship progressed she said as she moved back and forth across the stage.

“He kicked me in the stomach when I was two months pregnant but said sorry,” she said.

“At eight months, he punched me in the side, saying he hoped he killed the baby.”

Paige went on to explain how her boyfriend would physically, sexually and verbally abuse her. He said that he would kill her little brothers and her family while she slept if she told.

“Then my daughter was born,” she said. “I couldn’t take it no more so I went after him with a knife,” she said as she looked down.

Now the teenager’s daughter is in foster care and she is in a group home simply because she didn’t tell the truth she said.

Jamie, another survivor, was asked to sing a Martina McBride song entitled “Broken Wing.”

The song is about a women’s struggle with domestic violence.

When she left her abusive household she said she had nothing left but God.

“The women at the shelter took me in,” she said. “I was healed from them.”

Jamie started teaching bible at the shelter a few years ago.

After a heartfelt performance of the McBride song, members of the SEMO Family Violence Council stood by cutouts of women.

Each read the story of a life taken by domestic violence.

Carla Crocker, member of the council told the audience that there were five domestic-related deaths this year in our communities.

“Let’s take a moment of silence to remember those who’s lives were lost, those still fighting and those who escaped and who are now living on their own,” Crocker said as members of the audience held candles in honor and memory of their loved ones.

Members of the audience stayed after the ceremony to talk to members of the council as well as offer support and encouragement to those who spoke.

SEMO Family Violence Council will also hold fun races at 8:30 a.m., Oct. 31 at the Potosi Middle School. Entry fee is $15. Checks may be made to SEMO FVC and mail with entry to Michelle Smith, USA Drug, 120 E. Karsch Blvd., Farmington, Mo., 63640. Call Smith at 573-760-9931 for more information or registration forms. The council is raising money for the women’s shelter and to heighten awareness this month.

To learn more about SEMO Family Violence Council or the programs planned this month, call 573-358-3913 or visit http://www.semofvc.com .

Jessica Crepps is a staff writer for the Daily Journal. You may reach her at 573-431-2010 ext.143 or jcrepps@dailyjournalonline.com.

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