The Rhode Island State House was illuminated in purple as survivors, family members, advocates, and supporters gathered to honor and remember Rhode Islanders whose lives have been lost to domestic violence. Purple is the official color of domestic violence awareness and the State House will be illuminated from October 14-20.
The vigil was organized by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) in concert with their member agencies, including Blackstone Valley Advocate Center, the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, Sojourner House, and Women’s Resource Center.
Though the domestic violence homicide of Michelle Berthiaume-Benvenuti occurred after the domestic violence awareness vigil was planned, the event loomed large. Her murder occurred just as Domestic Violence Awareness Month began. Many of Berthiaume-Benvenuti’s family members and friends were in attendance.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, hate crime, human trafficking or other types of crime, or know someone who is and you need help, call 1-800-494-8100.
“We have gathered to grieve, to heal and to build community,” said Lucy Rios, RICADV director of prevention and communications, who emceed the event. “We are here to reaffirm our vision of a future free of domestic violence.”
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Satta Jallah, a survivor of domestic violence as well as a certified yoga instructor, author and doula, read a powerful poem entitled, “She already paid the price.”
“I’m an example that domestic violence can happen to anyone,” said Pastor Damaris Roman, a member of Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR), an activist and a teacher. “I was married. We both were pastors in our church. People would never have guessed that I was living in an abusive relationship. He isolated me. When I finally tried to speak, my church family told me to stay silent… ”
Michelle Berthiaume-Benvenuti’s family and friends began the candle lighting ceremony.
Pastor Enrique Newman is a domestic violence victim advocate and a member of Ten Men, described as “Rhode Island men from diverse walks of life who share a common vision — a world without domestic violence.”
Pastor Newman gave a reading and presided over a moment of silence.
The names of all the Rhode Island victims of domestic violence homicides for the last ten years were read aloud.
Lucy Rios closed out with some final words.
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