Mild temperatures and a gentle breeze accompanied participants in the Light the Night event– a memorial walk held Thursday evening in honor and memory of crime victims.Wearing white T-shirts …
Mild temperatures and a gentle breeze accompanied participants in the Light the Night event– a memorial walk held Thursday evening in honor and memory of crime victims.
Wearing white T-shirts marking the event, the walkers began their trek at the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway on Raider Drive to the Prayer Garden, located near the Church of God's International Offices, and back.
The event was a partnership between the District Attorney's Office and Legal Aid of Tennessee.
All of the proceeds raised during the awareness event will go toward helping victims of domestic violence who are being assisted by the Cleveland Legal Aid office.
District Attorney General Steve Crump told the Cleveland Daily Banner that the walk is being held to bring more awareness to the public regarding the dangers of domestic violence.
"The message for tonight was remembrance, but it's also hope that we can affect these terrible crimes positively by a community that is willing to get involved," Crump said.
Crump said many cases involving violence are caused by alcohol and drug use.
"We see in so many of the cases of domestic abuse that those incidents can be caused by alcohol or an opioid or an illegal drug. In an overwhelming percentage of those cases, there is alcohol involved."
Crump said drugs and alcohol will sometimes cause people to become violent.
"People who would never harm another human being will harm a spouse when they are drunk, high or wanting a drug," Crump said.
Legal Aid of Tennessee development specialist Suzanne Wisdom said it was a "wonderful night for the community."
"I am thankful to be a part of the work that Legal Aid of East Tennessee does, and for the partnership we have with the District Attorney's office that made tonight possible," Wisdom said.
Light the Night participants the Rev. Mattie Benton, Brenda Porter and RaSharon King attended the event in memory of Melisha Gibson, a 4-year-old girl from this community who in 1976 died after days of vicious abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
Benton and Porter said they remembered learning of Gibson's death when they were children and have never forgotten the little girl, who had reportedly been neglected and abused for years before she died.
King said she learned about Gibson's story many years later.
"I was too young to remember, but when I heard about it, I wanted to participate and support her memory," King said.
Legal Aid is a nonprofit law firm that provides civil legal help free of charge to its clients and whose mission is to strengthen communities and change lives through high-quality legal services.
The organization helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by working with each client to develop a safety plan to ensure their immediate and long-term safety, and by helping them obtain orders of protection through the court system.
Domestic violence, sexual assault and domestic homicide are significant problems in Tennessee.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 77,846 domestic violence incidents occurred in Tennessee in 2017.
A report released by the Violence Policy Center ranks Tennessee fourth in the nation in the rate of women killed by men. In 96 percent of those deaths, the woman knew her killer.
According to Legal Aid, “... every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted. In addition, one in six adult women and one in 33 adult men reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives. Seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.”
Particularly vulnerable are people with disabilities, who “may feel isolated and feel they are unable to report the abuse. Like many who are abused, those with disabilities are usually abused by someone they know, such as a partner or someone they are dependent upon for their care.”
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