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Women in Need vigil gives voice to victims of violence

April 14, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Attendees of Women in Need's 19th annual Vigil Against Violence cap off Thursday's event with a candlelight walk around the Wilson College campus in Chambersburg, Pa.
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — When 8-year-old Danica walked quietly to the front of the room with her mother and her Women in Need counselor, the crowd grew silent waiting to hear the tiny little girl's survivor's story.

Several hundred members of the community, representatives from law enforcement, the legal community and political representatives attended WIN's 19th annual Vigil Against Violence at Wilson College on Thursday.

"I had the privilege of working with Danica. There is so much strength in such a little person," said "Miss Tammy," who proceeded to read a book written and illustrated by Danica.

"I am 8-years old and this is my book about feelings. I feel happy when I look at flowers. I feel thankful for the love of pets," Miss Tammy read from Danica's book.

As the difficult part of the book was about to be revealed Danica's mother Nichole wrapped her arms tighter around her.

Miss Tammy read on: "At Christmastime, I am excited. Big hairy spiders are scary. I was also scared when the abuse was happening."

Danica was sexually abused by someone she trusted.

Several of those present dabbed tears from their eyes as they listened to the little girl's heart wrenching story.

According to statistics provided by WIN, 10 percent of children have experienced some form of sexual violence (sexual assault, rape, harassment or flashing) during their lifetime.

Barb Channing, executive director of WIN, said it's important the victims have a chance to tell their stories of survival.

"The vigil provides victims an opportunity to tell their stories — to tell what's happened to them. It's really important for the community to hear that in order to better understand what victims experience," Channing said.

She wants the community to understand that anyone can become a victim at anytime, any place, any age or any sex.

WIN serves more than 1,500 victims per year in Franklin and Fulton counties The organization's services are provided free of charge to victims of sexual violence, domestic violence and other serious crimes involving personal injury. WIN runs a hotline and an emergency shelter, provides counseling, preventative education and operates a legal office.

"The important thing is it's possible to have the strength to overcome the violence and move on," Channing said.

Judge John R. Walker, former Franklin County district attorney and currently serving as senior judge in the state of Pennsylvania, was the keynote speaker for the evening.

"Over the course of their lifetime, 71 percent of youth ages 14 to 17 in the U.S. has been assaulted, 28 percent sexually victimized, 32 percent abused or neglected and 53 percent have been robbed. These are deplorable statistics," Walker said. "May we honor these victims by seeking the fullest possible justice of all those harmed by crime."

Domestic violence survivor Amber, who did not want to give her last name, said she thought she had found Prince Charming. But, her fairy tale soon turned into a nightmare.

"As the years went by, his rants and control turned into violence," said Amber.

On one occasion he held her hostage for many hours and mentally, physically and sexually abused her.

So, she gathered her things and her 12 month-old son and got help and counseling from WIN.

"No matter what hardships I face now, I will never take myself for granted again," Amber said.

It's been three years since she left her abuser and she said she now lives in her own apartment and provides a stable and happy life for her and her son.

Erin Martz, 22, is a domestic violence survivor.

The turning point was when she knew she wanted her young son to have a life without seeing abuse and not repeating the patterns of his father.

"There is life after abuse," she said. "Don't be afraid to find support. Take control of your own destiny."

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Gerard Mangieri said the firsthand accounts of abuse were powerful and moving.

"It was very moving because it was straight from people who have been there. It was raw and unedited. It was straight from the heart of what happened to them," Mangieri said. "We need to hear that because we need to be kept aware of just how terrible a problem it is, and it helps us — people in the legal community and people in the criminal justice system — to remember that's exactly what we're fighting for — we're fighting for those people."

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