Shouts of “no means no” rang from the Courthouse Square lawn Thursday, Oct. 24 as advocates rallied against domestic violence. The show of support preceded a candlelight vigil, led by SIREN/Eaton Shelter that honored victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The vigil is an annual aspect of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Eaton County.
“International Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time for antiviolence advocates to connect with each other, remember victims and honor them and also to celebrate the survivors of domestic abuse,” said Kaitlyn Blanchard, a senior at Olivet College and former intern at SIREN/Eaton Shelter.
SIREN/Eaton Shelter is the only agency in Eaton County that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing to domestic violence victims and homeless families. Executive director Jessica Edel said, on any given night SIREN has 100 to 110 people under its roof and serves more than 500 families a year with housing. All services combined, SIREN reaches nearly 2,000 people a year.
“It takes a community to stop domestic violence,” said Jessica Edel, director of SIREN/Eaton Shelter.
Members of the community lit candles in honor of victims and survivors following an emotional message from domestic violence survivor, Nancy Odette. Odette was abused by her husband for nearly 25 years. Her message was one of hope.
“I had a strong family,” Odette said. “There is hope, there is encouragement, but you have to be strong and don’t let anybody put their hands on you. No means no. You have to stand for what you believe. You will slide back and try to forgive him, or her or any partner … it doesn’t matter what race, it doesn’t matter what gender, it doesn’t matter what age.”
Odette lost her husband 10 years ago and was ashamed to admit she felt relief.
“I felt like it was my fault,” Odette said of the abuse she endured. “Don’t let anybody tell you it’s your fault, that you deserve this, because you don’t deserve this. I was beaten down so bad and so were my children.”
She said her survival story continues with a new husband of six years that treats her well and can handle the ups and downs of life without violence.