Women's Aid Service closes out domestic violence awareness month with Open Mic and Candlelight Vigil
"'Why did you stay?' is a pretty harmful thing to say," Women's Aid Service Volunteer Coordinator Rihan Issa said to audience members during an open mic. "Sometimes, it's not that simple."
The Dreamer Coffee Shop hosted the Women's Aid Service's Open Mic Night and Candlelight Vigil, the organization's last event in October to recognize domestic violence awareness month.
About 50 people attended the event, women and men performed, explaining their experiences with domestic violence.
"Women's Aid Service works to raise domestic violence awareness throughout the year," Shelter Manager Dawn Jevicks said during the vigil. Jevicks provided statistics saying one in three women and one in four men will be the victim of domestic violence in their lifetime.
"There's been amazing support," said Issa of the events that have taken place this month.
Day of Unity occurred Oct. 3, and three counties participated. Law enforcement, prosecutor's offices, and county commission boards came together to promote domestic violence awareness. Chocolate fantasy took place last week, and Issa estimates that "a couple thousand" people have been reached by the Women's Aid Service's programs.
The Open Mic and Candlelight Vigil closed out a month of events directed at Isabella, Gratiot and Saginaw counties.
Attendees were invited to perform in whatever medium they deemed appropriate, while enjoying free tea and baked goods from volunteers. Some individuals chose dance, others chose original song or poetry, while others stood and shared their stories.
Alpena senior Craig Surbrook performed three original songs, which he said were inspired by the experiences of friends who have confided in him. "Fortunately," he explained, "because of these unfortunate circumstances, they've given me the opportunity to be there for them when they were hurting."
A pamphlet handed out stated domestic violence is "a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical, sexual, emotional , psychological, financial, and/or other abuse in the home."
"Even after someone has left (an abusive partner), they may still love them," Issa said. "It's not always black and white."
After two hours of story-sharing in a healing space, the Women's Aid Service took its event outside. Candles were passed to the 30 guests who stayed for the vigil.
Issa and Jevicks helped light candles in the blowing wind, and attendees of the event took it upon themselves to re-light strangers' candles when the wind blew them out.
Before the moment of silence to pay respects to those who have survived domestic violence and those who have lost their lives at the hands of a loved one, Jevicks recited a speech from a piece of paper, saying, "It is going to take all of us to address this issue. Among us there are victims, perpetrators, witnesses and bystanders. (...) Recognize your own abuse of power and control, and commit to getting better."
The Women's Aid Service provides free counseling, emergency responses and legal advocacy for those affected by domestic violence. Should you or someone you know need to contact the organization, the organization may be called at (989) 773 - 0078 or at its free, 24-hour crisis hotline at (844) 349-6177.