Friends, Family of Rhonda Rowe Hold Vigil for Domestic Violence Victims
LOUISA, Va. (WVIR) - The Louisa County community is working to raise awareness of domestic violence while reflecting on a somber anniversary.
Five years ago, Rhonda Rowe was murdered in her Louisa County home by her then boyfriend. On Wednesday, dozens of friends and family of Rowe gathered in her memory, as they do every October 2.
Since her murder, those who knew Rowe have started a nonprofit that holds a candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence on the anniversary of her death. Wings of Hope connects people from Louisa, Orange, and Madison counties who experience domestic violence with resources in their communities.
"We felt the need to stop and to say 'we need to get this awareness out here, we need to let people know,'" said Mary Kober of Wings of Courage. "She [Rowe] gained her wings and its courage for us to literally to get out there and do the awareness."
Friends and family of Rowe say Wednesday night was about keeping her memory alive and shedding a light on the impacts of domestic violence. Names of the people from Louisa and Madison County were read aloud and domestic violence supporters got the chance to share their own stories.
"Along with yelling and name-calling came the threats of violence and eventually the actual physical abuse," said survivor Melissa Shifflett. "I was pushed, slapped, kicked, choked, he pulled my hair out by the handful."
Shifflett hopes sharing her story inspires others to seek help out of a potentially unhealthy situation. "I hope my story speaks to all of you in some way," she said. "If you think someone you know is in an abusive relationship, be there for them, listen."
Victim advocates hope talking about the realities of abuse will help take away the stigma of seeking help.
"When we say one in four women, that's someone you know," said Greene Victim Witness Director Kenlyn Snow. "When we say one in seven men, that's someone that you know."
Thursday's vigil was co-hosted by the Shelter for Help in Emergency, which will hold another candlelight vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness Month on October 7 in Charlottesville.