dv vigil

Attendees of a candlelight vigil pay honor to the victims of domestic violence.

Stephanie Riddle, age 35. Henry Dixon, age 68. Conner Patrick, age 6.

These are some of the names of Georgians who were killed by people they loved this year.

“They always say behind every number there’s a story,” said Nancy Friauf, president of the Partnership Against Domestic Violence. “Unfortunately, tonight we have 69 stories. That’s how many people we will be honoring tonight… They represent 69 people who were loved, who were special, who were part of our lives, people that left behind family and friends and communities whose hearts are grieving for their loss.”

Friauf spoke at a vigil for those 69 lost lives Oct. 27. It was hosted by PADV and was the group’s 5th annual vigil.

Violinists Miffy Grayson and Thea Mistretta played a somber duet as each of the victims’ names appeared on a projector screen. With each name, a member of the audience stood, holding an electric candle.

The list included names from multiple counties. Most of the names belonged to women, but there were some men and boys as well. The oldest victim was 85; the youngest was two.

Friauf said her group gathered the list of names through media reports and the number of actual victims might be higher.

Anna Blau, executive director of International Women’s House, spoke to the crowd of over 100 people, some of whom escaped their own abusive situations.

“You are survivors with the strength and perseverance to not let those names disappear,” she said. “You are survivors.”

One survivor in the crowd was Sharonda Robinson. She spoke frankly of the abuse she suffered at the hands of a long-term boyfriend.

She described how he savagely hit her, dragged her down a flight of stairs and repeatedly strangled her to unconsciousness, often while her young son was in the house.

“He had destroyed my phone, I had nowhere to go, I couldn’t contact anyone,” she said.

After fleeing and living out of her car for a time, she got in touch with PADV. She stayed in a shelter for three months.

“I was free of the abuse,” she said. “I was given a chance at transitional housing and a chance to rebuild my life. I wish I could say everything is okay, but I realize it will be a journey to recovery and healing.”

Robinson said each day is a challenge, but she is regaining her self-worth and building a violence-free life for herself and her son.

“I’m thankful for the memories I can’t forget, because they let me know the monster that I’ve been saved from,” she said.

Friauf said those who are in abusive relationships should not be afraid to call PADV.

“Just talk to somebody,” she said. “You don’t have to leave if you don’t want to; you don’t have to tell your neighbors or your family members. Call the hotline and that’s a safe person you can talk to and think about what you want to do.”

PADV’s 24-hour Fulton County crisis hotline can be reached at 404-873-1766.

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