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Victim of domestic violence tells her story

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LIGHTING CANDLES:Laura Moore (holding lit candle) lights Klaire Hoppham's candle in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
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DOMESTIC VIOLENCEMATTERS: Domestic violence survivorEmily Mattisonspeaks about the abuse she suffered during the Hands of Hope Candlelight Vigilat St. James Lutheran Church.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

Hands of Hope hosted its annual Candlelight Vigil in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Thursday evening.

The month of October is dedicated to raising awareness for all affected by domestic violence. This years’ Candlelight Vigil featured the story of Emily Mattison, a domestic violence survivor. The vigil was held at St. James Lutheran Church.

“Too often people think they don’t know someone whose life has been touched by domestic violence, only to later hear that their friend, co-worker or church member has been battered,” said Linda Wilk, director of Hands of Hope. “You never know when someone will reach out to you for help and just knowing the 24-hour hotline number to give them can be a life changer.”

“It is important to talk about domestic violence, because if we don’t, then it becomes normalized and it should never be normal or acceptable to emotionally, verbally, physically, sexually or financially control or abuse someone else,” Wilk added.

The featured speaker, Emily Mattison, had volunteered for a domestic violence shelter and donated to the cause, but because her husband never physically abused her, she did not recognize the signs of verbal and emotional abuse. It wasn’t until he struck her that she realized she needed to leave. Emily wants her story to make a difference for someone who might not believe they are a victim or know where to turn.

"Abuse can happen to anyone," Mattison said. "It happens within marriage. It happens outside of marriage. It even happens within Christian marriages. Abuse crosses socioeconomic boundaries. It impacts all genders and orientations, all races, all faithful denominations from around the world."

Mattison urged those who are suffering from domestic violence, whether physical, financial, sexual, or verbal, to call the Hands of Hope helpline.

In addition to Mattison, the vigil also featured the College Wesleyan Church Worship Team, St. James Lutheran Church Pastor William Lahrman and Hands of Hope staff.

Wilk, who has been running the vigil for 24 years, said the event has grown over the years.

“We are seeing a lot more diversity and a lot more men,” she said. “This isn’t just a women’s issue, you really need everyone to participate.”

"I just give her all the credit that she has had the courage to save her and her kids lives," community member Rosie Garza said.

Designated by Congress in 1989, Domestic Violence Awareness Month was sanctioned by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence with the intent to connect advocates across the nation who are working to end domestic violence by remembering those who have died, celebrating survivors and creating awareness to end the cycle of violence.

Hands of Hope, a division of Family Service Society, Inc. offers comprehensive prevention and intervention services to the community through the Flannery-Keal Home, an outreach advocate, prevention specialists and a licensed clinical therapist. All services provided by Hands of Hope are free to the community and supported in part by United Way of Grant County and the Wabash County United Fund.

Hands of Hope also used the vigil to ask for support of the Flannery-Keal Home, a shelter for those fleeing domestic violence. Hands of Hope asked for donations of cleaning supplies, paper products, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, new kitchenware and non-perishable food items. These donations can be accepted at the Candlelight Vigil or may be delivered to Family Service Society, Inc. at 101 S. Washington St.