Vigil honors domestic-abuse victims COUNTYWIDE

October 30, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Three years ago, Rhonda took back her life when she left her abusive husband and moved into a safe house run by the the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County.

Last night at a candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence, Rhonda lighted a white candle to mark her three-year struggle to build a new life and the struggles of all the others who have suffered with her.

"I am a new creation, I have renewed my life," Rhonda told the 35 people who assembled at Amherst House in Kings Contrivance village in Columbia for a Celebration of Unity Against Domestic Violence.

"I am no longer a victim, I am victorious, I am a conqueror," said Rhonda, who recalled the day when a counselor from the center told her there was space for her at the shelter.

"For me, it meant life," Rhonda said.

Last night's vigil, sponsored by the Domestic Violence Center, was one of thousands held around the country to remember the victims and survivors of domestic violence and those who are working to stop it.

The Domestic Violence Center provides counseling and shelter to victims of domestic abuse, mainly in the county.

And the need for its services is growing.

In Howard, police respond to about five domestic-abuse incidents daily and the center's hot line receives about 3,000 calls a year.

"Those aren't just numbers, those are people," said Terry Farrell, president of the Domestic Violence Center's board of directors.

Rhonda is a real person behind the numbers, but her story is just one of thousands.

Her husband slapped her, kicked her, spit at her and ran her off the road, she said.

"The biggest change came when I realized my children were always abused too," she said.

"That's when I made my decision I must get out."

Although 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women, the two men who spoke during the ceremony said males must become more educated about the problem before it can end.

"It's not a women's issue, it's a male and female issue," said Mr. Farrell. "As long as we continue to say that [it's a women's issue], it's like saying that it's not a crime."

Mr. Farrell said more men must become involved in counseling victims of domestic violence and their abusers.

"Women do all the human-services delivery," he said. "It's not to say that women don't do a good job but we must force men to do that job also."

Major Mark Paterni of the county police department called for more men to participate in the department's victim-assistance program. He stressed the importance of continuing to educate the public about domestic-violence issues.

Police intervention alone, he said, can't address the root causes of the problem.

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