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Candlelight vigil honors victims of domestic violence

A victim of domestic violence, ‘Martha’ thought abuse was just a part of married life.
For years, she endured physical and emotional beatings at the hands of her then-husband.
But on Saturday, Martha proudly announced she was starting her life all over again — and this time she wouldn’t mistake violence for love.
Martha did so at a candlelight vigil held that evening at Freedom Hall in Johnson City. Candles in the Night, as it is called, honored both survivors and victims of domestic violence.
Several individuals shared their stories of survival at the event, while many tauted the work of local domestic violence organizations like Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter.
“I’m starting my life all over again, and it’s because of Safe Passage,” said Martha, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I never realized there was such a haven of miracle workers. They have instructed me and given me the tools to survive.”
Martha said she lived “just a normal life” before coming to Safe Passage.
“But I put up with controlling and emotional dominance, intimidation and pain,” she said. “I thought I had to live that way. You grow up, you marry a man and expect to live with him the rest of your life.
“Nobody knew we were not the perfect couple, and I never told anyone what was happening. I really thought I had to live with it.”
Life was anything but normal for Martha and as the years passed, she left her home and husband many times.
Martha would sleep in her car at Wal-mart, or if she had money, stay at a motel.
But without the resources she needed for survival and crucial emotional support, she always returned home and each time the situation grew worse.
One day she broke down and met with a police officer who introduced her to Safe Passage.
“I told him about the choking, the hitting, everything that I had been through,” she said. “I had never even called 911. That policeman believed me and he helped me get to Safe Passage and the help I needed. Then they took me under their wings and gave me a safe place to heal.”
Martha underwent a psychiatric evaluation that helped her “see myself as I am,” she said.
“I began to believe in myself again.”
To help start her new life, Martha is taking classes, learning about sexual violence and domestic abuse. She is also learning how to create a budget and live safely.
“I can go on and I do not have to have a controlling person in my life,” she said. “I now have help and I want others to know about Safe Passage, too. They don’t have to go through this. There’s help out there.”
For more more information about Safe Passage, call 926-7233.