By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Sunday’s candlelight vigil at the developing Abigail’s Arms shelter facility near Highway 82 will culminate what officials say has been a successful local observation of National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Abigail’s Arms representative Kelly Fiore-Watson said the vigil, set for 8 p.m. at 1600 N. Aspen St., is one of nearly 20 events the agency conducted during June.
This includes a recent father/daughter vigil at Cooke County Courthouse — an event similar to Sunday’s and with the same symbolic intent.
“It was to signify how we’re taking this county back from domestic violence,” Watson said Thursday. “And we’ve tried to have events that can reach all kinds of organizations and agencies. We’ve tried to cover the gamut in Cooke County.”
Watson added that merely organizing so many events in a single month signifies success.
“It gives us ways to figure out how we can tweak it and make it more successful next year,” she said. “If we got our message out to 25 people this month, that’s 25 more than we got to in May. So it’s a success every time we pass that along to someone.”
Watson explained to city officials earlier in June that during 2012, Abigail’s Arms dealt with 555 victims of violent crimes, including 196 families affected by them. Three of the victims were men. She cited 35 sexual assault cases and 21 sexual assault cases directly involving children reported locally during that year, plus another 23 acts of violence against children. She also said her center dealt with an average of 34 new clients each month in 2012.
Since the agency’s full-sized shelter went into development on Aspen Street, local sponsors such as Gainesville Daily Register have aided the cause by releasing printed testimonials about local residents who were helped by Abigail’s Arms after seeking treatment.
“Any time we’re able to get information to the community, it helps educate the community,” she said Thursday. “It helps dispel myths against fact.”
The public is invited to Sunday’s vigil, which will include a formal walk around the new Aspen Street facility and possibly a human circle.
“We would love to see 100 people,” Watson said. “We’d love to hold hands and hold a circle around the shelter. But whoever comes, be it five, 10 or 100, we’ll continue with the vigil and move forward.”
Representatives of Abigail’s Arms recently visited Gainesville City Council and Cooke County commissioners’ court meetings and volunteers mounted purple ribbons on the exteriors of several businesses during June in observation of National Domestic Violence Month.
Given that domestic violence is a perpetual issue, Watson said, the opposition has had a positive local effect.
“I do feel like it’s getting out there,” she said. “I sit out in front in the Abigail’s Arms office, and, you know what? Our doors opened and closed more times this month than last month. I feel the message is getting out there, and we have to know that we’re making some sort of impact.”
For more information, call (940) 665-2873.