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Eloquence beyond words…

Voices Against Violence vigil honors victims of domestic violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In recognition, the Plymouth based service and advocacy organization, Voices Against Violence, held a candlelight vigil on the Plymouth Town Common on a warm Thursday evening, Oct. 6, surrounded by several hundred T-shirts strung across the green as part of the “Clothesline Project,” in which local victims of domestic violence give voice to the pain and suffering they have survived, and even triumphed over, in their lives, by decorating T-shirts with messages of hope and strength. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
October 12, 2011
PLYMOUTH — If you happened to be driving into downtown Plymouth on the warm, sunny afternoon of last Thursday, Oct. 6, then you could not have failed to notice the spectacular show of strength represented by hundreds of colorful T-shirts strung on clothesline across the Town Common, billowing gracefully like banners in the gentle breeze.

It was a beautiful sight.

It was striking enough to attract the attention of passersby. People stopped what they were doing for just a moment, got out of their cars and wandered thoughtfully among the shirts, reading the messages and appreciating the artwork spanning the front of each and every expressive T-shirt pinned to the clotheslines.

The messages were stunning.

"Victim no more! Survivor forever…."

"Please be careful with me. I am sensitive…and I'd like to stay that way…"

"Stop! No one should ever have to say it more than once…"

"One out of every six American women will experience RAPE in her lifetime…"

"Love shouldn't hurt."

"You are so beautiful…Don't ever let him tell you you're not."

"You are not alone."

It was eloquence beyond words…made more poignant by the fact that each and every shirt was created by someone in the local area whose life has been impacted by sexual abuse or domestic violence.

Organizers explained that the "Clothesline Project" is designed to symbolize the "airing of dirty laundry" about domestic violence in public, for healing. It is also chosen as a means of giving voice to women who are abused in recognition of the fact that for many, isolation is a key component of their ongoing abuse, and for some, hanging the laundry out to dry is the only time they can get outside their home and into the public eye.

Later that evening, members of the staff, volunteers and supporters of the Plymouth-based service and advocacy organization, Voices Against Violence, huddled together against the cold and dark night for a candlelight vigil in the Gazebo to quietly acknowledge the suffering of so many who have survived, and to remember the victims that have not been so fortunate.

In New Hampshire, 50 percent of all homicides are the result of domestic violence.

For example, on Nov. 8, 2010, in Auburn, Mara Pappalardo, 39, was beaten and strangled to death by her husband.

On June 14 in Concord, Sarah Balch, 25, was shot by her husband, who then killed himself. Their three children witnessed the event and survived.

On July 1 in Wentworth, Evelyn Spodnik, 57, was lit on fire by the man she lived with, and died soon after… an event that has left deep scars in the local community.

Voice Against Violence Executive Director, Lisa Farmer, welcomed everyone to the annual Vigil, saying the she was gratified to see that attendees included people representing so many key segments of the community that are essential in preventing and responding to domestic violence and sexual abuse, including law enforcement, doctors and nurses, clergy, the schools, the university, businesses, neighbors and friends.

There was a moment of silence.

Then a volunteer read aloud "Rachel's Story" (a pseudonym) — the story of a victim of domestic violence.

'Rachel' writes:

"I am free from abuse after 20 years, and now I want other women to know that you are strong enough to survive, and to know that there are places to go to get help and that you are not alone. If you are in an abusive relationship weather it be verbal, physical, sexual, mental or emotional, you need to tell someone and get out as fast as you can for your kids' safety as well as your own. It will only get worse, the Cycle of Violence will continue.

"I am free and I am the only one who can control my life. I am the only one who makes decisions for my life. I have my own feelings and it feels great to be in control of my life. No one can take that away from me. I survived Domestic Violence for my kids and for the life I want to lead. I am strong enough to give my children the lives they deserve."

Voices Against Violence operates a crisis hotline that is staffed around the clock. The phone number is 536-1659, or 1-877-221-6176. For more information about services offered by Voices Against Violence, or to offer to volunteer or give financial assistance, visit Voices Against Violence on Facebook, or call the administrative phone line at 536-3423.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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