YWCA remembers local victims of domestic violence

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Walkers toss rose petals into the Susquehanna River from the Carl E. Stotz Little League Memorial Bridge in memory of those lost to domestic violence during the Walk of Remembrance Wednesday. The walk to the bridge was part of the YWCA's Domestic Violence Vigil at the Commissioners Boardroom.

The 15 victims who lost their lives to incidents of domestic violence in Lycoming County since 1996 were remembered at a vigil held by the Northcentral Pennsylvania chapter of the YWCA on Wednesday.

Victims themselves, family of those remembered and representatives of agencies and offices from around the county were there to learn about the issue and work being done to fight it and to hear the stories of those who have been lost.

Earlier in his law enforcement career, Chief County Detective William Weber responded to a situation that shifted his views on domestic violence.

Weber responded to a call of a man trying to break into the women’s shelter to see his estranged girlfriend.

One of the windows to the building was shattered, but the man was gone by the time police responded.

“Both her and the staff were so visibly shaken,” Weber said. “I asked if this was supposed to be a secure shelter, why was someone able to break in … they said it was because that’s all they could afford.”

In the early 1980s, the issue of domestic violence was treated as a private family secret.

“But seeing the look of frustration made me want to find out all I could about the issue and what we could do to help those who needed it,” Weber said.

Since that time, the county has been fortunate to have a multi-agency partnership with Wise Options.

The county has a group that looks back at those incidents of domestic violence, such as the 15 that ended in tragedy, and a task force that meets regularly to better the services they provide for victims — aside from law enforcement responding to incidents daily.

“I’ve been involved in almost half of these cases,” Weber said of those remembered Wednesday. “And there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of them (the victims.)”

Purple, the color of domestic violence awareness, symbolizes hope.

“But it’s also the color of a bruise,” Weber said. “Read articles to become educated about domestic violence, attend events, volunteer to raise awareness. Please do not remain silent. While we remember, hope we can help those bruises heal.”

Members of the YWCA lit candles at an empty table as 15 stories were read aloud — the passions those who died had, what they were remembered for and the day that changed them and their families.

A few people spoke about their experiences as a victim or a loved one of a victim before many walked from downtown to the Carl E. Stotz Little League Memorial bridge to drop rose petals into the Susquehanna River.

The 15 remembered were:

• Dolores “Dee” Wilson

• Jenifer Marie Powell

• Jennifer Nolan Witmer

• Tramaine M. Glisson

• Miriam Zambie Illes

• Susan Yasipour

• Stephanie Sees

• Kalib Nash Blase

• Traci L. Wertz

• Melanie Seitzer-Salgado

• Christine Montgomery

• Cherilyn Kephart

• Lynn Wright

• Kristina Pope

• Michelle Inch