Vigil witnesses against violence

Published 8:58 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

THE CLOTHESLINE PROJECT, which is a color-coded testimony of the abuse suffered by victims of domestic violence, is explained by Christ Marsh, executive director of the Halcyon House Inc. |Carolyn Iamon

wDecatur County Citizens Against Domestic Violence held its first candlelight vigil service Thursday evening at the A.O. Smith Building of First Methodist Church.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Garrett’s introductory remarks said the purpose was to raise awareness of an all too common problem that exists in this community, as well as state-wide. He further pledged his office is there to go forth with prosecution of the offender, even when the victim may not want to file charges or proceed.

The guest speaker for the event was Chris Marsh, executive director of Halcyon Home Inc. She described the shelter, which opened October 1997, as a place where healing begins for women victims of domestic violence and their children. The shelter serves five counties and has the capacity to house up to 15 women and their children at one time. It is monitored 24 hours a day and provides a safe environment for those who go there.

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Figures cited by Marsh authenticate the existence of domestic violence in this area. Since 1997, the shelter has housed 1,075 women and 1,368 children, with 297 of them coming from Decatur County.

Marsh said the abuse seen daily by shelter workers is heartbreaking, especially that of children. The display of the clothesline project and the Peace and Baby Quilt, gave further testimony to the psychological and emotional impact made on victims.

T-shirts are made by those in the shelter, expressing their personal experience of violence, while the children can paint a square for the quilt that shows a time when they were happy.

The Clothesline Project is a national project that began in 1990, when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda hung a clothesline across the village green in Hyannis, Mass., with 31 shirts designed by survivors of assault, rape and incest. Women viewing the clothesline came forward to create shirts of their own and the line just kept growing.

Since that time the project has grown to more than 300 local Clothesline Projects nationally and internationally, with an estimated 35,000 shirts. The shirts are color coded for different types of violence and abuse.

For example, white is for women who were murdered, yellow or beige for those who have been battered or assaulted, red, pink or orange for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted, blue or green for women who survived incest or child sexual abuse, purple is for women, children and men who are survivors and black for victims who have experienced all types of abuse.

The Halycon House currently has 28 eight-foot sections of clothesline T-shirts to display.

As candles were lit, Dan Provence and Nan McIntosh read the names of 71 persons, seven of them children, that died as a result of domestic violence in Georgia in the past year. Two of those names, Tonia Swords and Kahm Reynolds, were from Decatur County.

WANDA SWORDS, mother and grandmother of murdered victims of domestic violence, talks with Sheriff Wiley Griffin following the candlelight service Thursday evening. |Carolyn Iamon

Wanda Swords, mother of Tonia and grandmother to Kahm, gave a tearful testimony of the murder of her family members and pleaded for those who are in abusive situations to realize it and get help. She stressed that those who are subjected to verbal abuse, be it man, woman or child, may not realize it can escalate into physical violence and even death.

“If you are in a situation like that, get out,” she urged.