WEST JEFFERSON —Thirty-six names representing the lives lost throughout North Carolina since January due to domestic violence were read during “Light the Night,” a candle vigil hosted by A Safe Home For Everyone (ASHE) on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Although none of those lives lost were in Ashe County, ASHE wanted to pay their respects by reading the names of all victims followed by a moment of silence.
According to ASHE program director Deanna Stoker, “Light the Night” was aimed to raise awareness in how partner violence affects not just the survivors, but the community they live in.
“With the theme itself, ‘Light the Night,’ we thought that it was a great message of how intimate partner violence is considered a public health epidemic,” Stoker said. “It takes all of us to come to together to shine a light in order to drive that out of our community.”
Stoker said ASHE hasn’t held a vigil in several years and decided to hold one during the month of October, which is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“It was something that we felt strongly that we wanted to bring back and incorporate into October because we can’t do this alone and getting the community involved is a big piece to making sure our community is free of violence.”
During the vigil, Michael Lea, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Jefferson spoke of domestic violence in the community, comparing it darkness.
“Before we can light the night, I think we have to admit there is darkness as well as light and that darkness exists in our communities and our lives,” Lee said. “Domestic violence is a community matter. It’s not just ASHE’s problem. Anything that happens in our community, especially to one of our neighbors, it is our problem.”
Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey reveals 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped with only 40 percent of those ever reporting to crime to law enforcement.
Ashe County Commissioner and West Jefferson Police Chief Jeff Rose spoke of his experiences with domestic violence during the event.
According to Rose, 5-10 percent of West Jefferson police calls are related to domestic violence, not including assaults related to domestic violence.
Rose stated that over the last few years he has noticed the the level of abuse is increasing and becoming more violent. He emphasized the results of physical violence and emotional abuse including manipulation and isolation.
“Working with A Safe Home For Everyone allows law enforcement to not only have the resources available for survivors but also allows law enforcement to receive training from the staff about developing issues surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault,” Rose said.
In addition to the vigil, ASHE displayed their clothesline project in which children from their outreach and primary prevention program and the 4-H after school program, “empower,” decorated t-shirts, talking about how to prevent and stop domestic violence.
Changes for ASHE
During an Ashe County Board of Commissioner meeting in July, Stoker announced that beginning on Oct. 1 of this year, ASHE would no longer be operating a common shelter and instead using individual housing units to house clients.
With the change, Stoker says ASHE hopes to cause less disruption to their lives while empowering them to be more productive, self-sufficient citizens.
“When you ask a survivor what they want, they will tell you that they want their own house, their own space,” Stoker said. “That’s half of the healing.”
According to Stoker, before implementing the change, ASHE thought about how trauma friendly a common shelter really is. Stoker said many of those living in a common shelter have experienced so much in their lives and are also trying to raise children and trying to mesh different families together can be traumatic.
“This way the clients will be able to continue to have their own culture that they are used to in terms of their family unit and be able to focus on what they need in order to move forward instead of being re-triggered and traumatized by possibly the other clients or the structure we have to have in place when its communal living,” Stoker said.
The new change is still in the early stages and Stoker says ASHE is still working on all the kinks.
“One of the things we are working on is ensuring that we aren’t isolating them by making sure that we are connecting them, not just with us as their case managers, but also with their community,” Stoker said. “We know that’s a huge piece in the protective factor that will help them be successful.”
ASHE is currently looking for private landlords to help with the transition to individual housing.
“We are looking for private landlords who would like to develop a relationship with us, whether its letting us rent property from them to use as a site, or building a relationship so that the clients that we are working with can be placed there permanently to live in their own homes to be able to pay and afford that.”
According to Stoker, 46 percent of homeless women in the nation are homeless due to domestic violence, something she says ASHE is trying to prevent.
“Safe, affordable housing in this area is hard to find,” Stoker said. “Part of this new service delivery includes building strong relationships with those people so that our clients hopefully will not have to come back into the homeless system.”
ASHE is now finishing up their awareness fundraising event, “Dine to Donate,” where local restaurants are donating a percentage of their sales during a certain time of day. Hardee’s will be participating on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Other restaurants who took part in “Dine to Donate” include Hotel Tavern, Village Inn Pizza, Smokey Mountain Barbecue, Log Cabin Restaurant, and Sweet and Savory.
For more information about A Safe Home for Everyone, contact Stoker at 336-983-8851. ASHE’s 24-hour crisis assistance hot line can be reached at 336-246-5430.