Hope Harbour hosts annual march for domestic violence awareness
Laura White was shot in the stomach by her ex-husband the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2009.
Doctors said she had less than a 1 percent chance of survival, and if she did survive, she would have an extremely low quality of life.
White was the featured speaker at the candlelight vigil that marked the end of the “Silence Hides Violence” march through downtown Columbus Tuesday night.
White moved to Columbus in February 2015 after experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband in Texas. She told the audience how he had physically, mentally and emotionally abused her for years.
White said the violence escalated after she finally left her husband. After filing for divorce, her ex-husband called her to come over to his home so he could sign the divorce papers.
That’s when White’s ex-husband locked her in a back room and put a shotgun in her face.
As she tried to escape, he stepped in front of her and shot her close-range in the stomach. She lay there bleeding out until he called 911.
When White arrived at the hospital, she had lost a lot of blood and had no heartbeat. But she survived and moved on, eventually finding her way to Columbus.
After White finished telling her story, the audience rose to give her a standing ovation.
The “Silence Hides Violence” march, held by Hope Harbour, has taken place every year for the past four years as a way of bringing the issue of domestic violence to the forefront of the community.
Lindsey Reis, executive director of Hope Harbour, has been with the organization for 10 years. She said the march was created to bring awareness to the cause, but also to show victims there are organizations out there to help them.
“Part of (the march) is to take some of that shame away, because the people walking with us tonight will be everyday people from the community,” Reis said. “They’ll be survivors, they’ll be victims, they’ll be all kinds of different people.”
The march began in front of Country’s Barbecue and continued up Broadway to the Government Center. There, participants were given the name of a victim and a glowstick.
Members of Cassiopeia Chapter #235, Order of the Eastern Star and Omega Psi Phi Inc. Nu Delta Chapter at Columbus State University read the names of victims who died between October 2015 and September 2016. As each name was read aloud, audience members cracked their glowsticks and stood when their victim’s name was called.
Asharia Edwards, a sophomore at Columbus High School, participated in the march as part of her volunteer work with the Victim Witness Program.
Over the past year, she has taken part in marches and events around the issue of domestic violence and has learned about what a victim goes through in the legal system.
As each person in the audience stood up with their glowsticks, she felt saddened by how many young people had been killed in the past year due to domestic violence. However, she was happy to know the victims were given a moment to be remembered.
“I’m glad that they did this to let those people be known and let Muscogee County know that these are the people who had to go through this,” Edwards said. “If someone you know is being hurt, you can talk to these different organizations to get help from people.”