A candlelight ceremony was held Saturday morning to remember the lives lost to domestic violence over the past two decades in Milledgeville and Baldwin County.
For many, it brought back some of the saddest memories of their lives.
The vigil was sponsored by the Baldwin County Solicitor General’s Office.
Names of the victims along with their photographs were attached to jars and candles.
The candles were lit by family members and others, including officers from the Milledgeville Police Department.
Survivors and domestic violence awareness advocates normally participate in a march, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s march was canceled.
Baldwin County Solicitor General’s Office Victim Services Director L. Lattimore-Harris welcomed family members and others to the memorial service held outside Heritage Park Plaza.
“Our hope is that we pay tribute and we remember those victims who lost their lives as a result of domestic violence and that we give hope to the victims who are still suffering through the violence,” Lattimore-Harris said. “We want the survivors to know that we are still pressing forward.”
The opening prayer was given by Jeremiah Hall.
“Thank you, God, for this cause and for this wonderful community being able to come together and take a stand against domestic violence,” Hall said. “Dear Father, I asked that you place your loving arms around these people, around these families, dear Father, and around this community, dear Father.”
Hall also praised God for being a comforter to the families.
“Father, I thank you for being able to show each and every person here that there is no obstacle too big that you cannot help each and every person here through,” Hall said. “I ask that you touch this community and nation as we travel through unsteady waters with this COVID-19 pandemic. I ask that you hold us and let us know that you will never leave us or forsake us, dear Father.”
Welcoming remarks were made by Natalie Fields, a victim/volunteer facilitator with the Baldwin County Solicitor General’s Office.
“I would like to say to you that we have a goal and our goal is to ensure that the slain victims, as well as the survivors, are never forgotten, nor do they feel alone in this community,” Fields said. “We hope to provoke thoughts on actions that will help us rid this in our community. We know that as an engaged community of Baldwin County — it means that we are an informed community. And that same informed community can be influential in addressing the domestic violence epidemic that many have to face.”
Fields asked others to join in the fight against domestic violence.
“Do your part, united with us in our quest to fight domestic violence,” Fields said.
Janice Scott, another victim/volunteer facilitator, also spoke.
“I stand here before you as a domestic violence victim, myself, and also as a domestic violence survivor because in all reality we all are domestic violence survivors simply because we’ve had to live beyond the moment of the act that was committed against our loved ones, or even someone we know,” Scott said. “I just want to encourage all of us to become better and not bitter because if we remain bitter then we’ve given the perpetrator control over our lives.”
Scott said one of the important things she learned as a volunteer facilitator is that a loving, healthy relationship begins with loving one’s self.
“I just ask that you give up your right to remain silent and speak out against domestic violence because the life you save may be someone you know and may be someone you love,” Scott said. “Tell yourself, I will not stay silent so others can remain comfortable. Domestic violence tragedies and any life trauma is not something you get over. We’re not asking anybody to get over it. It is something you have to live with and to know that your life will never be the same.”
Lattimore-Harris said she has been involved in the plight to tackle domestic violence for the last two decades in Baldwin County.
“But it was going on long before me,” Lattimore-Harris said.
She said she believes it’s important that residents of the community come up with a strategy to combat domestic violence.
And education is one of the top strategies.
Baldwin County Solicitor General Skye Gess also spoke.
“We are here to remember those who we have lost,” Gess said.
Gess, who was appointed solicitor general nearly two years ago by former Gov. Nathan Deal following the death of Maxine Blackwell, who had served as solicitor general for many years, talked about her office’s guardian angel.
Gess said the candlelight vigil began back in 2002 by Blackwell.
“And it is something we’re continuing to do and it's something that has happened every single year and it will be something that we will continue so that we can never forget the impact, the loss, the ripple through this community when we lose someone to domestic violence,” Gess said.
She said domestic violence is not something that her office focuses on just one month out of the year.
“It is something we work toward ending every single day,” Gess said. “I encourage each and every one of our community members to think about the one thing that we can all do. And I believe the one thing each and every one of us can do is to use our voice to say something.”
Gess pointed out that sometimes those conversations are uncomfortable with family members or friends, but that she believes they are necessary.
“Sometimes we don’t want to get involved because we don’t want to know what is really going on,” Gess said. “But we must. We have to ask those tough questions because we don’t know whose life we can save and we can impact. That’s why it’s so important to use the voice and the gift we have.”