Domestic violence shelter to hold ceremony for victims of abuse

In celebration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Refuge House will have a candlelight vigil and survivor speak-out.

As the end of the month nears, the vigil and speak-out will honor domestic violence victims and celebrate survivors.
Community Education Program Director Jessica Pinto said the survivors speaking out will increase awareness.

“The primary goal is to create more awareness,” Pinto said. “We do it every year. We want to give victims and survivors a forum to share their story. Then the public is also able to learn more and be more aware.”

Pinto said there was not a national domestic violence month until 1987. Refuge House has been celebrating the month ever since.

According to, the leading cause of injury to women is domestic violence. The Partnership Against Domestic Violence reported in the United States that a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds.

“Forty percent of the girls who attend PACE have experienced trauma in their lives,” said Kelly Otte, the executive director for the PACE Center for Girls. “Some of them have watched their moms get beaten. Events like this makes these girls feel normal. It’s powerful for them to know that they’re not alone.”

Located at 1517 S. Adams St., the Refuge House serves people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. It serves people among the Big Bend area.

“Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of women experiencing homelessness have experienced childhood sexual violence or adult domestic or sexual violence,” said Stephanie Beckingham, assistant to the director at the Big Bend Homeless Coalition. “Many women have experienced this violence both as a child and an adult.

“It is important to the homeless coalition that we honor and support women who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”

More than 1,000 domestic violence offenses in Leon County were reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2012. The overwhelming majority of these offenses were due to simple assault and aggravated assault. According to a 2012 Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, almost 600 people were arrested between the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff Department as a result.

The Refuge House offers both support and resources to people who have been abused. It offers guidance and encouragement for families and friends. The Refuge House reaches out with churches, professional groups, business and organizations in the community to talk about preventing domestic violence and sexual assault in the community.

“We stand in support and partnership with Refuge House to speak out and raise awareness around these important issues,” Beckingham said.

According to the Refuge House’s website, its mission is “to provide direct services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to their children and families, as well as to work to eliminate such violence through community education and public advocacy.”

Pinto said the Refuge House is 35 years old this year and has been doing the event since the 1980s.

The event is a healing experience, Pinto said. The Refuge House welcomes anyone who wants to be a part of the experience to attend.

If interested in attending the event, Tom Brown Park is located at 501 Easterwood Drive. For more information, contact the Refuge House at 850-922-6062 or visit the website,

The event is open to the public. The vigil will be held today at 6 p.m. at Tom Brown Park.