By Cary Rosenbaum of the CUJ
MISSION – A small but powerful candlelight vigil was held Oct. 15 in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Seven community members and CTUIR workers gathered on the BIA lawn to share experiences, prayers and songs, while standing in a half circle.
Dana Campbell, the tribe’s child youth advocate for the Family Violence Services program, read a poem.
“By lighting these candles, I hope this says to victims everywhere: On the nights you feel alone, I am with you,” Campbell said. “When people doubt you and dismiss you, I am with you. I fight every day for you and never stop fighting. I believe you. You are important. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day. You are powerful, and no one can take that away from you. By being here today, we want to let victims of domestic violence know: We are with you.”
Organizer Enola Dick, the On-Call Advocate for Family Domestic Violence program, said the vigil was for men, women, children and LGBTQ survivors. Her program painted windows at a local store, and set up displays at the Nixyaawii Governance Center and Yellowhawk Health Center to raise awareness.
“Part of our program is about bringing awareness to our community,” she said. “It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so we tried to plan a whole bunch of activities.”
Campbell stated the conversation needs to change.
“So when we ask a question of our victims: Why don’t they just leave? And the abuse happens again, and we say it again, we are once again abusing the victim,” Campbell said. “We say you need to act. You need to leave your home. You need to flee with your children. You need to leave your pets behind. You need to engage with authorities. You. You, who didn’t do anything wrong. We need to change the conversation from why don’t you leave, to why doesn’t he stop, or she stop, abusing you? So it’s time to think about the people in our lives: Our daughters, our sisters, our brothers and sons, our friends and colleagues, think about their courage and strength. Think about saying: What do you need from me? How can I support you?”
A Washat blessing and song were offered by Jess Nowland, who later shared his involvement in the Tribal program.
“(Domestic Violence is) a difficult cycle to break,” he said. “All of you that are here, even though we’re just a few, anytime someone talks about it, it’s words that pull that trend in another direction. I want to put it in our minds and hearts that you all find the strength, courage and motivation to carry on a very difficult job, and that those who are around us can open up their hearts and mind to understand and appreciate the kind of work that needs to happen for our community; our women, our children and even our men to feel safe and protected.
We can all be educated about how to appropriately respond to these kinds of things that happen, when they’re obvious and when they’re subtle.”
Art McConville, 76, said he participated in the event because he’s been involved with domestic violence work “forever.”
“I used to write the grants for the program,” he said. “I ran the program for several years. I try to stay involved whenever I can.”
Andi Scott, who attended with her 5-year-old daughter Jillian MorningOwl, said she attended in honor of several members of her family who have been in domestic violence relationships.