The ARK domestic violence shelter held its annual Candlelight Vigil at the Howard Payne University Girling Center on Thursday evening, honoring victims of sexual assault and those killed by intimate partners.
The presentation featured guest speakers, a moment of silence, a candle lighting and a reading of names of all 146 women killed in domestic violence incidents in Texas last year. Pastor Rick Phelps also read the names of all local domestic violence deaths over the past several decades.
Alexis and Ty Reiter were the first guest speakers during the vigil. Their mother Michelle was murdered by an estranged ex-boyfriend in 2012.
“Since my mom was taken from us, I have met other women who have been affected by domestic violence,” Alexis Reiter said. “It gives me hope that so many of them have been able to rise above the abuse and overcome the violence. It is now my desire to show other families and survivors the love and support my family has received.”
Denise Flanary was the second speaker of the evening. She discussed her sister’s murder at the hands of her then-stepfather in 1993, and about the abuse she endured as an adult. “Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of social status, religion, sex, race or income,” Flanary said.
“I used to see myself as a victim, but now I know I am a survivor,” she said. “We survivors can help others. You can help as well. Raise awareness, help those in need, provide shelter for those who need a safe place to go. Listen and don’t judge.”
Phelps then read the names of all 146 Texas women killed by intimate partners in 2016. The women ranged in age from 15 to 92 years old, and were honored with a moment of silence.
ARK board chair Lisa Dick closed the vigil with words of hope. “If you or someone you know is in a bad situation, there are people committed to helping you get out,” Dick said. “If you are going through this, you are not alone. There is hope.”
The ARK is a domestic violence shelter that serves Brown, Coleman and Comanche counties. It offers a 24-hour crisis line, an emergency shelter, support groups, legal advocacy, counseling and more for all domestic violence victims in the region.
The ARK is located at 2900 Coggin Ave. and can be reached 24/7 at 325-643-2699. More information is available at www.arkshelter.org.