Candlelight vigil sheds light on domestic violence

October 21, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Reba Weller remembers seeing women with faces puffy from broken cheekbones, children so hungry from neglect that their bones were visible underneath their skin and young girls who know more than they should about sex from abusive stepfathers.

Counselors recalled domestic violence horror stories Tuesday night at the Shenandoah Women's Center on Lawrence Street following their candlelight march.

About 15 people walked down the streets of Charles Town Tuesday night, holding candles in memory of those killed in domestic violence and to celebrate those who survived it, said Deputy Director Mindy Tramonti. The march was sponsored by the Shenandoah Women's Center to mark October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Some of the horrifying tales of domestic abuse have happy endings, Weller and others said.

One case involved an abusive husband who frequently traveled. The children were so neglected that they suffered malnutrition, she said.


The boys lost their front teeth from an improper diet and the girls were skeletal thin, she said. Their mother had no self-esteem from years of abuse.

After counseling from the Shenandoah Women's Center and donated work by a local dentist, the boys now have nice smiles, the girls are healthy and the mother is holding down a job to support her family, Weller said.

Shenandoah Women's Center officials said they had hoped for more people to attend the march.

The officials said the low turnout was not because domestic violence does not occur in Jefferson County - about 960 people were served by the Shenandoah Women's Center in the last fiscal year. Across the entire Eastern Panhandle, the Shenandoah Women's Center served 2,043 people, providing emergency shelter to 141 of them, officials said.

Tramonti said she believes the victims of domestic violence are too embarrassed by their situations to come out for vigils. Others in the community do not like to think the problem exists, Weller said.

"This is a subject people don't like to deal with. If we have a booth, they'll walk way around us to avoid it," she said.

Frequently the victims of domestic violence do not seek help until it is nearly too late, Weller said.

In one case, a woman experienced years of beatings and torment until one day her husband put his seat belt on but refused to let her buckle up, Weller said.

The man said he wanted to make her death look like an accident, Weller said. He then drove his car into a tree at a high rate of speed.

The woman suffered a broken back but lived and then sought help to get out of the relationship, Weller said.

Other candlelight marches are planned for this week, Tramonti said. They are as follows:

* At 7 p.m. tonight at Shepherd College, between the college administration building and the student center

* At 7 p.m. Friday at the Martinsburg Mall's Vet Field

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