A candlelight vigil to promote domestic violence awareness and honor victims of domestic violence was organized by the Center for Women and Children in Crisis Oct. 24.
Susan Madsen, an international speaker for women’s rights and professor at UVU, gave a presentation during the vigil to discuss the importance of domestic violence awareness and provide statistics.
“These gatherings are so important,” said Madsen. “They help us come together to discuss the issues, and more importantly it reminds us of the feelings connected with abuse. Our feelings help tell us that something is wrong and something needs to change.”
According to Madsen, 169,000 cases of intimate partner violence are reported in Utah each year. Madsen also cited that each year 80 children will witness the murder or attempted murder of their mother.
“These are only the statistics that are reported to the center or to officials,” said Dennis Hansen, president and CEO of the Center for Women and Children in Crisis. “At least 95 percent of cases go unreported.”
Hansen and Madsen both claim that Utah has higher than average rates of domestic and sexual abuse than most of the states in the nation. While Utah’s statistics for domestic abuse are high, Madsen argues that steps can be taken to prevent and end abuse.
“Statistics continually tell us that there is an inverse correlation between education and abuse,” said Madsen. “Studies show that the more education a woman or a man has, the less likely they are to be perpetrators or victims of domestic and sexual abuse.”
Madsen’s presentation was followed by a series of monologues performed by “At Risk No More,” a non-profit theater company led by theatre professor Heidi Mendez Harrison. “At Risk No More” empowers at-risk teens to share their experiences in order to help others who are struggling with similar circumstances.
Following the monologues, attendees participated in a candle lighting ceremony, which was accompanied with bagpipes played by Nick Lewis.
“Sexual violence has decreased by half over the past twenty years,” said Madsen. “While this is fantastic news, we need to keep on the fight to raise awareness.”
Hansen said, “There is a significant amount of women out there in hostile environments who don’t even know that help is available. It is up to us to spread awareness.”