Director of Family Services of Caswell County Aisha Gwynn started her conclusion speech at Thursday night’s Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil a bit differently.
Instead of leading with a simple introduction, Gwynn began her speech by pointing to Family Services’ banner hanging in the background and explained to the roughly three dozen people standing on the lawn of Yanceyville’s Historic Courthouse that the butterfly in their logo symbolized the victims of domestic violence transitioning into survivors.
“It’s so heartening,” Gwynn said. “It really does reinforce why we do this work because it does symbolize them breaking through chains. They are able to have a life outside their abusers and that is one of those awesome feelings and it’s hard to describe except by saying we’re absolutely empowered by watching these people make that transition and it renews our purpose and resolve.”
Gwynn also informed audience members Family Services of Caswell had helped 349 victims make transition from victims to survivors in just an astonishing 272 days.
“It’s humbling, absolutely humbling,” Gwynn said. “I hate the fact we’re needed here, but there’s problem that needs to be addressed outside of the calls to 911 and we’re addressing it. It’s humbling because we don’t want to be needed, but we are and we are ready to be there for anybody.”
U.S. Representative Mark Walker, R-6th, and N.C. Representative Graig Meyer, D-50th, were both in attendance at Thursday’s vigil and each shared their experiences with domestic violence.
Walker talked about the experiences his wife, Kelly, has had fighting on the front lines as a health practitioner, while Meyer spoke on his experience addressing domestic violence as a social worker.
Caswell County Manager Bryan Miller opened the vigil — remembering those lost and celebrating those remaining — and Caswell County Board of Commissioners Commissioner David J. Owen followed with a prayer.
“I think North Carolina and Caswell County both really value community and when there’s domestic violence, there’s a breach in the community,” Meyer said. “So, it takes a whole community to address this type of problem and that’s why we have come together tonight.”
Caswell County Sheriff Tony Durden informed audience members there had been approximately 81 domestic violence calls placed to his office over the past few months and District Attorney Jason Ramey, 22-Prosecutorial District, confirmed Durden’s numbers and added he was sure there more calls placed and handled by Gwynn and Family Services. Casey Hamlett sang Christina Aguilera’s “I’m OK” right before Gwynn’s concluding speech.
The butterfly used in Family Services’ logo also marked the transformation in the stigma of domestic violence as well.
“Everybody tends to think the abuser is always going to be a male and the abused is always going to be a female and we’re a testament to the fact abuse comes in all cycles and shades,” Gwynn said. “We’ve helped all, we’ve seen it all. Domestic violence is an equal opportunist. It can happen to anybody regardless of status, background or anything they may have.”
Meyer added, “I think there’s more awareness now about domestic violence and there are a lot more people who are willing to stand up and talk about it. That encourages others to come forward and it’s helped the courts get a lot more serious about it. Law enforcement officials and courts really understand it’s a prosecutable crime and not just something that needs to be swept under the rug or kept in the family.”
To use a sports term, Family Services of Caswell consists of utility team players.
“We help them with safety planning. If they need to flee, where are they going to go?” Gwynn said. “Do they have all their documents? Do they have what they need? That kind of stuff. It’s powerful work.”
The group is located at 339 Wall Street in Yanceyville and can be contacted at 336-694-5750.