First Step hosts 18th annual Candlelight Vigil

First Step hosts 18th annual Candlelight Vigil

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - The month of October is domestic violence awareness month, and each year First Step holds their Candlelight Vigil to remember those who lost their lives and to honor survivors.

First Step Inc. is a non-profit organization located in Wichita Falls that provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including but not limited to: crisis intervention, 24 hour hotline, individual and group counseling, self-defense classes, legal advocacy, case management and emergency shelter.

For their 18th annual gathering, things looked different this year because of the pandemic, stories from survivors and community leaders are being done virtually, but the message is the same.

“We’re here, call us up, we will work with you on a plan to safely get you out of there and into a safe place,” Michelle Turnbow, executive director of First Step said. “This is so important, this is happening in our community.”

185 people were killed last year in Texas due to domestic violence.

Small groups gathered to listen to the stories of the survivors, before a vigil honoring those killed but not forgotten.

“That could safe someone’s life, you know someone else hearing that there is hope at the other side,” Turnbow said.

A recording plays, telling the stories of men and women who survived domestic violence:

“The most important thing my family and I gained from our time at First Step was hope and belief that the future I’m building would provide a healthier alternative for my family.”
“I don’t know where my life will go from here but I have hope and someone who believes in me.”

Wichita Falls Police Chief Manuel Borrego provides statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence in the city.

“We were averaging about 122 domestic family violence incidents a month, so that’s over 1,400 victims annually,” Chief Borrego said.

Turnbow adds that Thursday’s vigil is not just about keeping people safe, but also about changing the culture of how this community responds to domestic violence.

“You are not alone and it’s not just First Step that wants you to see you succeeded and be empowered, it’s this whole community,” Turnbow said.

First Step can be reached at their 24-hour crisis hotline 1-(800)-658-2683.

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