EL CENTRO — With domestic violence awareness signs in hand, the crowd of nearly 200 supporters marched down Main Street Wednesday evening to El Centro’s Town Square where they were awaited by the Central Union High School drum-line and another 150 community members to mark the 13th Annual March Against Domestic Violence.
The march, sponsored and organized by WomanHaven Center Against Domestic Violence, was composed of former victims, members of the community and other agencies for the purpose to bring public awareness of domestic violence and the effects of it on families and individuals.
Evolving from the Day of Unity that began in 1981, Congress passed public law in 1999 officially designating October of that year National Domestic Violence Awareness month and subsequent legislation has passed each year since.
“We use this month to have events like these so that we can promote domestic violence awareness throughout our community,” said Gina Vargas, Woman Haven CFS Executive Director.
Domestic violence is described as any type of physical, verbal, emotional, and financial act that harms another person in a romantic relationship, family relationship, or sometimes a friendship.
WomanHaven board member Monica Ketchum began her speech by thanking and welcoming the public for coming out.
“When victims come to us we really try and support them so that they can strive to put their lives back together, thrive in society, and move on from being a victim, to being a survivor, and then to an advocate,” Ketchum said as she explained this year’s Strive, Thrive, and Survive theme.
Special guest speaker Norma Vandergriff spoke next about her experiences and eventual liberation from being a victim of domestic violence.
“The hardest thing that I had to admit was that I wasn’t the only one that was being abused, but I was also allowing my children to see and live their lives along side of me,” said Vandergriff. “I had to make the conscious decision to remove myself from that kind of life. Breaking the chain is a vital step into our freedom. I stopped being a victim and transformed into a thriving survivor,” she concluded.
“The wonders behind the work are the WomanHaven CFS volunteers and our community resource partners,” Vargas said in regards to the event coordination and complimentary treats provided at the community resource tables.
El Centro City council member and county supervisor candidate Cheryl Viegas-Walker also addressed the community.
“We must lift our voices and drown out the hate. We must be willing to challenge inappropriate behavior and stop the hurtful negative language that is tearing at the core of our very human decency,” Walker proclaimed.
A purple balloon release ceremony concluded the event and symbolized the remembrance of all of the victims, survivors, and those taken by domestic violence. Purple is the national color for domestic violence awareness, education, and prevention.
“I encourage you to call our hotline (760) 353-8530,” Vargas said to possible victims. “We can make arrangements for you to be picked up. Maybe by talking to someone about it, people can see that they can seek support and leave the relationship and don’t have to continue a life of violence,” suggested Vargas to those who fear and or are unable to leave the house.