The Anson County Domestic Violence Coalition hosted a candlelight vigil Oct. 26 for the victims who have lost their lives to domestic violence.
Gail Dove, victim advocate at the ACDVC, said that the vigil itself was to remember Anson County residents who lost their lives to domestic violence and support those who survived.
“There was a silhouette to represent each known victim, except for two,” Dove said. “Previously, the two victims’ family requested that we not include them in any of our vigils or anything.”
Dove said that the family told them that they are trying to move on and do not want their names mentioned at all.
“The balloons that were passed out represented the 72 victims that died in North Carolina in the last year from domestic violence, and there was a balloon for each of our own victims,” Dove said.
Anson County Sheriff Landric Reid and Wadesboro Police Chief Thedis Spencer each spoke of their support for trying to help victims of domestic violence. Spencer also spoke of one of his experiences when approaching a domestic violence situation to help.
Dove read the story of one domestic victim and Missy Harden gave her own personal testimony.
Originally from a small town in the United Kingdom, the victim only identified as “Bety” met a man online while doing research for a university assignment. They began sending letters and calling each other every day.
According to her story, the man told her he had been in trouble in the past, but she didn’t want to judge. She also said that she was surprised by how funny, kind, polite and caring he was.
“One year later, I agreed to come to the U.S. to visit him,” she said. “I wondered if we were moving too fast, but I was swept off my feet, had fell in love, and we planned a future together.”
When he proposed, the future victim said she was happy and they married quickly.
“I remember feeling puzzled because he was in such a hurry and so excited to get married, yet he was hesitant to tell his family about us,” she said. “I brushed it off, thinking he knew how and when to tell his family.”
Bety said the problems started out as mental abuse and that her husband would choose what she could wear, tease her about her city upbringing, and threatened her with the idea of deportation. Worse abuse followed, she added, and her husband was always “the victim.”
“Towards the end, when he could tell I was pulling away, he would give me a day or two when I would get a glimpse of the good guy I fell for,” she said. “And each time, I allowed myself to believe that he finally broke through this ‘spell’ and everything would be better now — but it wasn’t.”
Bety said that she knows people will ask why she didn’t leave long ago, but there is no short or clear answer. When she looked in the mirror several months before she left, she could no longer recognize herself.
“Apart from the physical, psychological, verbal and emotional abuse, there was also sexual abuse,” she said. “It started as suggestions to take part in some of his sick fantasies and making sexual comments about various people, and later, it became forcing me to participate in scenarios and acts that I did not want or enjoy.”
With help from the ACDVC, Bety got out of her abusive situation, and made it back to the United Kingdom, along with her dogs.
“His main aim was to erode the person I was, destroy my boundaries, tear apart my self-esteem and self-respect and mold me into something he thought I should be,” Bety said.
Harden also read her story of domestic abuse.
Harden met her former husband at the age of 19, and she said he was strong, handsome and gave her all of the attention that she wanted. In the first few years, he started out with side comments, calling her lazy and an idiot.
“After a few years, my ex-husband became physically violent and I attributed that to his incessant drug use,” she said. “I thought that if I loved him more, took better care of him, and gave him what he wanted, he would love me again and the violence would stop. But it didn’t.”
Harden said she started to shut down after a cycle of being left bruised, beaten and in pain. Her family had been alienated and she just took the hits, the verbal, mental and emotional abuse, and internalized it.
“I rarely spoke, was scared, and I never knew when he was going to be violent, or what kind of mood he was in,” she said. “I often thought, is this going to be my last day?”
Harden said that May 22, 2013 was the last time he ever laid a hand on her.
Ten days later, and with only the clothes on her back, she and a friend who was aware of the situation moved out of the county.
“Well, to my utter shock, my ex-husband found me,” Harden said. “So, my friend moved us to another state; and he was, and is, my angel.”
Harden said that after her father got sick, she had to move back home. It was then she decided to get in contact with the ladies who operated the ACDVC and said they were instrumental in helping her.
“With the restraining order, court proceedings, and multiple court appearances, they were always by my side,” Harden said. “With all the times my ex violated the restraining order, they were there; not only to help me through the process, but to comfort me and keep me safe.”
Harden said that she is getting stronger each day, even though she still has trust issues; the panic attacks are not an everyday thing anymore. On Feb. 19, she married her friend, who she said continues to keep her safe and treats her with kindness, concern, care and love.
“Even though you may be terrified, please reach out to someone, anyone, for help,” she said. “Just remember, there is always hope and there is always someone willing to help you have the peace, happiness, and future that we all deserve.”
Karen Baucom, executive director, gave out awards to honorees, which included: Detective Trevin Ricketts and patrolman Billy Jacobs of the Wadesboro Police Department; Deputy Darius Ellison and Sgts. Richard Flowers and Mario Kobersy of the Anson County Sheriff’s Office; magistrates Josh Leviner and Toni Carpenter; and District Court Judge Amy Wilson. The Angel Award was given to Chris and Robin Sanford.
“The main purpose of the vigil,” Dove said, “is to remember the ones who lost their lives due to domestic violence and bring awareness to the fact that it does happen here.”