WOODSTOCK – With the sunset presenting a purple to match the balloons scattered around Woodstock’s Square, Katelyn Kloepffer did what so many affected by domestic violence do not: she spoke.
Kloepffer, 19, told her story Wednesday night to a swollen crowd gathered around the Square’s gazebo for a candlelight vigil for domestic violence victims. The annual event – sponsored this year by Turning Point, Direct Counseling and Mather’s Clinic – brings people together to honor survivors and victims of domestic violence.
Though her and her siblings were never a direct victim of physical violence, Kloepffer, of Harvard, witnessed her dad abuse her mom throughout their 18-year marriage, she said. With her parents now in the process of a divorce and separated by an order of protection, Kloepffer decided to share her experience.
“Part of it is because of them, Turning Point,” she said after the event. “I found this new confidence in myself and telling my story.”
Held in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Turning Point’s annual vigil has been taking place for more than two decades.
This year, organizers decided to focus their attention on teen dating violence – an issue that has hit home in the county since two teens died in a July murder-suicide that left a 1-year-old without parents.
Jane Farmer, executive director of Turning Point, conducted a moment of silence for Jackie Flores, the 17-year-old victim of the Harvard incident.
“Right there is a murder that happened in our own backyard,” Farmer said after the ceremony. “We have to pay attention to that so we can end that cycle of violence.”
Before the candles were lit, the crowd heard from a series of teenagers who read stats about domestic violence and talked about why the issue matters to them.
When it came time, some individuals chose to honor survivors or victims by bringing stones up to the gazebo, which was decorated in purple, the designated color for domestic violence awareness. Organizers passed out candles to a crowd that far surpassed the attendance of last year’s event, several remarked.
“This is huge this year,” Farmer said.
In addition to honoring those who’ve struggled through domestic violence previously, organizers hope events like Wednesday’s help coax more victims into seeking help.
Kloepffer said she was further energized toward that goal earlier this year after she spoke during Turning Point’s radio drive. A woman later said Kloepffer’s story prompted her to speak up.
Molly Horton, children’s advocate at Turning Point, spoke about the work her organization does to help young children who either have been victims of domestic violence themselves or have seen it up close.
“I’m very proud that they dedicated the first half to teen dating violence,” Horton said.