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Vigil illuminates problem of domestic violence

When the lights were turned out for a few moments Thursday night in Ohio University Southern’s Bowman Auditorium, the shimmer from dozens of glow sticks cast a purple haze that was soft and lovely.

But behind the purple haze was a harsh reality: Purple is the official color of National Domestic Violence Month — Purple to symbolize the bruises domestic violence victims suffer at the hands of people who are supposed to love them.

The Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force planned the candlelight vigil to raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence within our community and within society as a whole.

Keynote speaker Nikki Bryant told the assembly she left an abusive relationship several years ago with $4.22 in her bank account, two small sons and no idea how she would pick up the pieces of her life.

Her abuser had been not only physically violent but emotionally violent as well. He had also alienated her from family and friends. He had made it clear leaving him would not be easy.

“I came home once and found one of every pair of shoes I had were cut in half,” she recalled.

In addition to the abuse she fielded inquiries from well-meaning people who cared but didn’t understand the psyche of domestic abuse.

“People would say ‘why don’t you just leave?’ There’s a lot to it people don’t understand,” she said. What made the situation worse for Bryant was that she was a professional fighter—people queried why she didn’t just hit him. Bryant said fighting in a ring and fighting a partner are two different things.

She wound up staying at the local domestic violence shelter where then-director Ruthanne Delong provided the guidance to take Bryant from victim to victor. Bryant now is an assistant professor and program coordinator at Ashland Community and Technical College and is working toward an advanced degree.

“I am 30 years old today,” Bryant said. “I have a wonderful job, a wonderful family.”

DVTF Director Elaine Payne read a poem about domestic violence that seemed to complement Bryant’s own story.

“There are so many faces of domestic violence,” Payne read. “The woman being beaten can be anyone.”

Both Bryant and Payne encouraged people to not watch silently when they see signs of domestic abuse in the lives of others but to reach out to the victim in love and hope. In his invocation, the Rev. David Peoples prayed that those assembled would “be a light in a dark world.”

The Mt. Olive Baptist Church Choir provided music, as did soloist Ricky Payne.

Payne’s song described a domestic abuse victim who would die from her injuries.

“She fell in love with the wrong kind of man… he abused her love and treated her so bad…” Payne’s song said. It exhorted the listener to get involved in helping those who hurt. “Open your heart as well as your eyes.”