YWCA Our Voice

YWCA to hold Vigil of Remembrance and Hope

Each October the YWCA Northcentral PA holds the Vigil of Remembrance and Hope to honor those who lost their lives to domestic violence in Lycoming County.

This year’s vigil is at 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 outside the Lycoming County Courthouse.

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we aim to make sure the community is aware about what domestic violence is and how Wise Options saves lives.

Last year was my first time participating in the awareness month activities so I was not prepared for the wave of emotions that would wash over me that evening.

Due to the rain the vigil was set up inside where photos of the victims were set up around the perimeter of the room. In the back of the room was a display called “Empty Place at the Table” which has a place set for each victim being honored. There is a plate with their name, birthday and the anniversary of their passing along with a candle that is lit during the vigil.

Seeing the visual for the first time was heartbreaking. It pained me to see the child-sized table for the two young kids who were murdered by their fathers. It still makes me sad to look at their innocent, smiling faces in the photographs knowing that their lives were cut short.

As the vigil was about to begin, every seat was occupied and there were people standing outside of the room to listen because there were so many people there.

Before that evening I had not heard each victim’s story. Wise Options staff and volunteers told their stories as they lit a candle for their place at the table.

Hearing their stories read back to back nearly brought me to tears. In the simplest of words, I was moved.

It broke my heart to hear that many of their stories had similar elements. The reasons for most of the murders stemmed from things like heated arguments, child custody issues and jealousy.

After the ceremony was finished, we walked to the Market Street Bridge to throw rose petals into the Susquehanna River to represent the sacred beauty of life. It was lovely to see the colorful petals dance their way down to the water.

As I walked to and from the bridge, the victims’ stories were buzzing around in my head. Even though their stories are difficult to hear, they are necessary in confronting the epidemic that is domestic violence. It does not touch a specific group of people; it can affect anybody.

The work done in Wise Options is essential in helping domestic violence victims find safety which can take the form of staying in our shelter, getting a PFA, relocating or confiding in someone. All of these services are free, confidential and available anyone experiencing abuse.

If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, please call our 24/7 hotline at 1-800-326-8483.

Bloom is the communications associate at the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St. Her column is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault, Wise Options can help 24/7 with a confidential hotline at 800-326-8483.