WOODSTOCK – Julie Gibson provided a fitting musical finish to a night that took a painful look back and a hopeful look forward.
“When the day is long and the night is longer still,” Gibson sang shortly after the gathering in Woodstock Square lit their candles. “I’m going to sing my wounded heart well.”
Gibson followed a series of short speeches at the 22nd Judicial Circuit Family Violence Coordinating Council’s candlelight vigil Wednesday night. The vigil is held each October – Domestic Violence Awareness Month – to pay tribute to those who’ve suffered from domestic violence and to increase awareness of its prevalence and potentially fatal consequences.
The Woodstock Police Department responded to more than 700 calls of domestic violence in 2011, said Police Chief Robert Lowen, who spoke briefly Wednesday night.
The night also featured speeches by former victims of domestic violence.
Katie Lagrange of Woodstock spoke of her abusive relationship and the frustration of being with a man who could be laughing at one moment and screaming or violent the next.
“I remember so clearly the last few days I was with him – I actually felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Lagrange said. “I tried to not even speak because I knew no matter what I said, even if it was just, ‘Good morning,’ it would be turned and twisted into something that I would regret later.”
Lagrange said she’d fallen in love with the man quickly, which made it tougher to get out of the relationship as his actions worsened.
Eventually, she broke away from him and found help through Turning Point McHenry County, a domestic violence agency in Woodstock.
“Domestic violence is fatal, but I know firsthand that you can live a better life,” Lagrange said. “You can feel good again. You can laugh again.”
Last year, Turning Point served 1,820 clients and received more than 5,000 crisis calls.
Jane Farmer, executive director of Turning Point, said one in four women will become a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetimes.
“Domestic violence is an underreported crime and tonight we are here to say we can work together to make a difference and keep our communities safer,” Farmer said.
Bev Thomas, coordinator of the family violence coordinating council, said most people don’t realize the likelihood that someone close to them is a victim of abuse.
“It’s a problem that crosses all color lines and cultural lines and every socioeconomic denominator,” Thomas said. “People really need to open their eyes and pay attention to those who are suffering.”