Corliss Smithen |
ST. THOMAS, V.I. – Dozens of residents took to the streets of the capital, Charlotte Amalie, Thursday night in a march to express their dissent against domestic violence and to show support for victims and their families.
Under the theme, “Stop the silence and shine the light on domestic violence,” the Family Resource Center, a non-profit organization, in collaboration with the V.I. Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Council, hosted the annual March and Candle Light vigil.
Decked in purple – the color that represents domestic violence – marchers set off at 5:30 p.m. from the Emancipation Garden, wound their way over Government Hill, down to Hospital Gade, to the Legislature Yard and returned to Emancipation, where the march culminated with a candle lighting and vigil ceremony.
A number of school groups and bands – the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School Marching Band and Dancers, the Charlotte Amalie High School Marching Band and majorettes and the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Marching Band and majorettes – provided musical accompaniment for the event and entertained spectators during their two-minute performances at Emancipation Garden where organizers erected a scroll bearing the names of the 72 victims who have died so far as a result of domestic violence. T-shirts bearing messages were also hung on lines across the garden.
During the ceremony that followed, the common theme expressed by speakers and presenters, including several senators and the delegate to congress, was “Stop the Silence.”
“We must stop the silence to stop the violence,” Sen. Marvin Blyden said, adding that his sister was a victim of domestic violence.
“This is what we need on a regular basis,” Sen. Justin Harrigan said. Harrigan said he was instrumental in the enactment of Act 744, which now makes it easier for those victims who are being stalked to file a complaint against their perpetrators.
Sen. Myron Jackson said, “I’m here to pledge my support for the work of the FRC.”
Sen. Tregenza Roach said, “When one person falls to domestic violence, there are children, parents, aunts and uncles who feel it. They need all of us to support them in this cause.”
Dwayne DeGraff, a police officer for 26 years and now a senator hopeful, added his voice. “Form groups where you can confide in people to stop domestic violence,” he said. “Domestic violence is happening everday. Let’s do all we can to stop domestic violence.”
Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett said, “We all must become our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Together we can be a stronger community for men, women and children in the next generation.”
Arlene Charwell, deputy police chief in the St. Thomas/St. John district, said that domestic violence affects all classes of society.
“Seventy percent of domestic violence falls within the middle class community, 10 percent falls within the upper class community and 80-90% of D.V. cases go unprosecuted,” she said.
Charwell also opined as to why victims remain in abusive situations.
“Victims are financially dependent on their abusers, victims are emotionally attached to their abusers and victims are afraid that the violence may escalate as a result of prosecution,” she said. “Domestic violence is unacceptable behavior. If you see domestic violence or any criminal acts, report it.”
The highlight of the occasion was the candle lighting ceremony during which three persons announced the names of each of the victims who lost their lives through domestic violence and the audience lit candles in honor of their memory.
The March and Candle Light Vigil was hosted to “honor the victims who have been killed as a result of domestic violence and those who continue to struggle with this plight.”