By Brenda L. Holmes
As the month of October comes to a close, the staff and residents at Sheltering Wings hosted a candlelight vigil to honor the memories of those who lost their lives because of domestic violence.
Sheltering Wings is a shelter in Danville for women and their children who have been victims of domestic violence.
“How many of you have a sister?,” asked Carmen Mitchell. “How many of you have a best friend that you could probably call your sister?”
That’s how Mitchell began to talk about her best friend, Emily Waddell-Giles, who was murdered June 18 at her Lizton home, leaving behind her small child. Her husband, Michael Giles, has been charged with murder.
“That’s the kind of friendship that I had with Emily,” Mitchell said. “It didn’t matter what day, or what time, morning or midnight — she was there for me and I was there for her.
“Once she started telling me about the problems that her and Mike were having, is when I go nervous and very protective over her. I was always texting her and checking in on her.”
Mitchell said she tried several times to bring Waddell-Giles to Sheltering Wings.
“But there was always a reason why she couldn’t go at that exact moment,” she said. “If I would’ve just been able to go there, pick them up, and bring them here, maybe I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now.”
She begged those at the vigil to be advocates for their friends and family and to try to be that hand that leads them away from a violent situation and into a safe place, like the shelter.
“It doesn’t need to come to this,” Mitchell said. “I shouldn’t even be here talking to you ‘in memory of’ my best friend, Emily Waddell. No one should have to prepare a speech like I have had to for tonight. Please ask for help.”
The Rev. Brian Correll is director of pastoral care for Sheltering Wings. He also challenged those in attendance to take an active role is stopping domestic violence.
“These are stories of people who live on your block,” Correll said. “Every one of us have been affected by domestic violence.”
He read Isaiah 60:18, “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders.”
“I’m looking forward to that time when there will be no more suffering,” Correll said. “No more brutality. No more violence. No more pain or tears. No more domestic violence. No more sexual violence. No more sex trafficking. We need people who will step forward. We can no longer remain on the sidelines. Let’s speak up. Let’s fight. Let’s declare no more!”
Julie Randall, president of the Hendricks County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, presented “Take Action” awards — one to an individual and one to a group.
The individual award was presented to Capt. Brian Tremper of the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department.
“The coalition has been working on a lethality assessment program,” Randall said. “His dedication and leadership help make this happen. He truly knows what it means to be a victim.”
She said law enforcement is often the first to help in a domestic violence situation and the coalition has been working hard to make sure officers across the county have the tools they need to intervene.
The Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department received the group Take Action award.
Tremper humbly accepted the awards but wanted people to know that law enforcement officers all over the county have been supportive of the coalition’s initiatives.
During the vigil, Tremper and Col. Steve Wagner, also of the sheriff’s department, read the names of those who have been murdered over the past year. There were 62 domestic violence murder victims in Indiana from July 2011 to June 2012.
As each name was read, a white rose was placed on a table, symbolizing the victim.
Maria Larrison, director of Sheltering Wings, said the ceremony each year continues to be emotional for her and her staff.
“Even after all these years, it just breaks my heart,” she said.
Larrison presented the Spirit of Courage award from the shelter to Susan Blanford.
“In 2004, Susan’s sister was killed and she took in her kids,” she said. “It really pulls at our heart strings when we see the children who are left behind. It’s important that we support these survivors.”
Larrison said that in 2013 the shelter’s staff is making it a priority to better support and serve the families of domestic violence.
“We need to see how we can support those loved ones,” she said.
Sheltering Wings is a 24-hour shelter for victims of domestic violence and their dependent children. For more information, call 745-1496.