CAMPBELL COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Every year, October is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Wednesday night, several organizations in Campbell County came together for a candlelight vigil in honor of victims and survivors suffering from domestic violence.
The 10th annual vigil was hosted on Wednesday, Oct. 21, by the YWCA of Central Virginia, a local organization that has been at the forefront of a variety of social issues like racism and women empowerment.
Members of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office were also in attendance.
“It’s so important to show survivors of domestic violence how much support they do have,” said. Sheriff Whit Clark.
Events like these are not uncommon for him. The department often partners with agencies who work closely with domestic violence survivors like the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, victim-witness advocates, and forensic nurses at local hospitals.
“It’s a tremendous team effort to try to help and support,” Clark said.
While several police officers were there in support, one stood out from the rest with a personal story.
Sgt. Gary Penn understands the effects of domestic violence all too well. On May 10, 1997, his sister died after her husband shot her in the back of the head. The incident happened in Patrick County.
It’s a day he will always remember. It was devastating news not only to him, but his mother, who was coming home from preaching at a church service in Galax.
“I came home. A major from the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office had to break the news to my mother because I couldn’t,” said Penn.
Year’s darkness soon turned to light. After 24 years, Penn is thankful he’s able to forgive his sister’s killer, although he says it wasn’t easy.
“It took me several years to understand what forgiveness was all about,” Penn said.
Now, he makes it his mission to share his story at events throughout Campbell County and let people know that they are never alone.
“A lot of them [survivors] feel like they’re at the end of their road and they feel like this is all I have. But we just give them that courage to understand that there is more in life,” said Penn.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, Clark encourages you to reach out to your local police department.
You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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