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Rhonda Nixon carried a sign with an important message.
“Love Should Not Hurt. Someone is beaten every 9 seconds in the U.S. Take action now.”
Nixon was one of 50 local residents, mostly women, who participated in the annual Silent Walk to remember victims of domestic violence.
The event was organized by the Wesley Shelter, a domestic violence response agency in Wilson.
Tuesday’s walk has special meaning to Nixon.
“I actually had to use this shelter 11 years ago,” Nixon said. “I was a victim of a kidnapping, beating and rape. Someone from the Wesley Shelter met me at the hospital and they were there to walk me through the whole process. Even at my court dates, they were there.”
Nixon has come every year the silent walk has been held.
“I just find it an act of kindness to give back,” Nixon said. “Every year I come and walk because I am a survivor. There are other families that didn’t have a survivor, so I am grateful.”
Occasionally, the Wesley Shelter has asked Nixon to speak at domestic violence awareness events like the recent Take Back the Night Vigil at Barton College on Oct. 17.
The walk from the steps of the Wesley Shelter on Vance Street to Pine Street and Nash Street, ending at the steps of the Wilson County Courthouse.
It is held in October as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“It’s a show of unity and a show of awareness,” said Lynne White, the Wesley Shelter’s executive director. “We respectfully remember those who have lost their lives to domestic violence in the last year, but we are also celebrating those that have left situations like that and gone on the become survivors. So we want the community to know that help is available if they know someone or are affected by domestic violence that we are here 24-7.”
Upon arrival at the courthouse, the group stood for a few moments of silence to reflect on what silence does.
“Voices have been silenced by domestic violence but there are also those who are still suffering in silence,” White said. “We want them to know that they can come out and speak up and be part of a solution if they need it.”
According to White, the shelter started in Wilson in 1983.
“It first started as a small battered women’s shelter and now over the years has grown to expand comprehensive services to all victims of domestic violence because we know it does not discriminate,” White said. “We have male victims just as well as female and all races, ages and socioeconomic levels are affected.”
Walkers created their own signs with personalized messages.
“Power + control = Domestic violence,” read one.
“Domestic violence involves the whole family,” read another.
“One in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. has been raped in their lifetime. Love does not equal abuse.”
The sight of all those signs with powerful messages is hard to ignore.
“We felt like it’s such a tradition, the visual of people standing on the courthouse with lots of different signs says to the community members that walk with us to say ‘Yes, we are all invested in this work,” White said.
The Wesley Shelter is supported by state and federal grants, the United Way, local businesses, individuals and community fundraisers. The organization’s thrift store, The Clothes Line, is also a funding source.
White said the event in Wilson was held in conjunction with Nash, Edgecombe, Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties, which have a regional domestic violence response partnership.
According to Nixon, when a victim is going through this process, the support is both in emotional healing as well as physical healing.
“The Wesley Shelter is an important aspect of it,” Nixon said. “It helps you to get to that next level. It gives you back your self-confidence and your self-pride. It also helps educate people on what to look for. Sometimes we miss the red flags, but we are always trying to save the world and it says ‘Now, let me save myself. Let me be more aware.’”
For more information about the Wesley Shelter, call 252-291-2344 or visit www.wesleyshelter.org.