Flowers on the River for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Rachel Martin

October 1, 2012 Updated Oct 17, 2013 at 7:40 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – If you go by the St. Mary's River, you may notice some flowers flowing downstream as the YWCA of Northeast Indiana kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with their signature event, Flowers on the River.

According to the Fort Wayne YWCA, domestic violence affects one in four women in their lifetime and occurs 145 times an hour in the U.S. In fact, from July 2011 to June 2012, domestic violence has claimed nine victims in Northeast Indiana and 62 statewide.

Monday night, several survivors of domestic violence and their supporters gathered at the YWCA on Spy Run Avenue, collected flowers, and made a quarter-mile walk to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge. Once at the bridge, people took a moment of silence and sprinkled their flowers into the St. Mary’s River. To these particular people, they weren’t just flowers, instead they serve as symbols of growth, strength and remembrance for victims of domestic violence.

“We throw flowers onto the river to symbolize the journey a victim takes from being a victim to being a survivor,” said Mary Jo Hardiman, YWCA Director of Communications. “The flowers symbolize hope and peace: hope for a change and above all peace in a home. Most victims leave a home where there’s been on-going violence and threats. To be able to journey down the river, like the flowers do tonight, it really symbolizes that.”

A 20-year-old domestic violence survivor from the area, who asked to stay anonymous, says she was abused from the time she was four months pregnant to the time her child was two weeks old. “I’ve had bruises and gashes on my face,” she said.

It’s been a little over a year now, and her daughter is 15 months old. The young woman and her family say the attended Flowers on the River in celebration and also for awareness.

“I have a really good support system, but not everybody has that, so one of the biggest reasons I came was to show other women who are in that situation that there are places like the YWCA that can help them,” she said. “The walk and the flowers for me was a big step of success for me. It's kind of a way to show my success, that I've gotten this far and that I haven't turned back.”

The survivor says she still has a lot of rough moments and even has moments where she wants to go back to the abusive situation. However, she says the best thing to do is leave the situation, although it’s not easy.

“It took a lot of my family telling me no don’t do it, and staying out of the spotlight. I would stay home a lot, but I’ve gotten past that to where I can go to the grocery store now without being afraid all the time.”

She says places like the YWCA and their Steps to Success program really helped get her through.

“It doesn’t matter if he pushes you or pulls a weapon on you, it’s abuse,” she said. “Women should find a family member or friend, someone they can trust, and find somewhere they can go, like the YWCA, just so they can get out right away.”

Steps to Success is a program that empowers women, men and their children to regain their independence and be self sufficient through goal setting, life skills, job training, education, and financial assistance.

“These victims have overcome physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse as well as religious abuse. When people come to our shelter, often it’s with nothing but the clothes on their back with their children in tow,” said Hardiman. “Tonight we want to honor and remember those victims as well as symbolize the fact that YWCA Northeast Indiana in here in the community helping victims everyday move towards empowerment and self sufficiency.”

In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the city changed the lights on the MLK Memorial Bridge to purple.

For more information or to get assistance from domestic violence, go to our homepage and click on “YWCA” under News Links.

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