Vigil to 'shine light on domestic violence'

ALBANY -- Liberty House will close out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's National Domestic Violence Awareness Month this evening with a "Shine a Light on Domestic Violence" candlelight vigil and walk.

"It's to mourn the loss of those who lost their lives because of domestic violence," Liberty House Executive Director Silke Deeley said in an interview at the 20-bed Albany shelter for battered women and children. Deeley pointed out that a total of 67 Southwest Georgians who fit that definition will be remembered.

"The most recent was when that woman was shot," Deeley said of 49-year-old Sarah Riggins, who was fatally shot by police Friday when she refused to drop her weapons after police responded to her roommate's call. "That happened because of domestic violence."

But tonight's event has an additional purpose, too.

"It's an opportunity for survivors to celebrate the fact that they're alive," Deeley said.

The event will kick off at 6:45 p.m. in the Department of Family Services parking lot on West Oglethorpe Boulevard, where participants will march almost two blocks to Veterans Park Amphitheater.

"Silent witnesses wear the names of victims who died on their shirts," Deeley explained.

The program will include an invocation from a member of the Albany clergy, who was undetermined at press time, a performance by the Dougherty High School Chorale and two speakers.

"We generally have a survivor speak," Deeley said.

Tonight that survivor will be Leisa Terry of the Dougherty County Public Defender's Office.

"She has a unique perspective," Deeley said.

Also speaking will be Dougherty County Chief of Police Don Cheek, who will give warning signs of domestic violence.

The candlelight portion of the event will close out the evening.

"The candles are lit at the end, when we read the names of the victims who died," Deeley explained.

The yearly event, which has been a fixture in the Good Life City since 2003, according to Deeley, drew more than 200 participants last year.

Tonight's candlelight vigil and walk is Liberty House's culmination of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Other activities in October included two symposiums at Darton College on child abuse and safety planning for adults and children, as well as a program in which advocates for domestic violence awareness spoke on how to survive violence to Albany State University sororities and fraternities and at Darton College.

"We also invited churches to address domestic violence from the pulpit," Deeley said.

Liberty House provides shelter and assistance to victims of domestic violence in 17 Southwest Georgia counties.

According to Deeley, that assistance is needed more than ever because the issue is on the rise.

"If you look at the newspaper, the violence is increasing," she said.

To support that statement, Deeley pointed to research she conducted on calls the Albany Police Department took earlier this year which involve domestic violence in Albany.

"From January '09 to February '09, the calls jumped 192 percent," she said. "That's a significant jump."

On average, Liberty House receives 125 calls for help each month.

For more information, call (229) 439-7094. For help, call the crisis line at (229) 439-7065.