By Deb McKee Kelly and Arthur E. Foulkes
TERRE HAUTE — The first name on the list was Danita K. Allen.
As soon as Allen’s name was spoken, a balloon bearing her name was released into the twilight sky Monday evening over Terre Haute. The person who released the balloon was her father, Danny Allen.
Another name was read and another balloon was released.
Soon, the sky over Terre Haute had more than 25 purple balloons drifting silently overhead.
Each balloon represented a life lost in the Wabash Valley over the past 13 years to domestic violence.
“I try to make it here every year,” Danny Allen said referring to the candlelight vigil Monday night outside City Hall sponsored by the Council on Domestic Abuse. Allen’s daughter, Danita, was killed 12 years ago by a boyfriend.
Also at Monday night’s vigil was Teresa Walker, whose sons are alleged to have been victims of domestic abuse last year. One of her sons, 4-year-old Collin, was killed.
“I’m here to support her,” said Catherine Saunders, a friend with Teresa Walker at the vigil. “It’s important to recognize that domestic violence happens … in the Wabash Valley,” Saunders said.
There are 33 women and children living in CODA-provided housing in Terre Haute, said Yvonne Creekbaum, director of the city’s emergency CODA shelter. The local facilities are full, she said, adding, however, “we never turn anyone away.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and a number of activities are planned to draw attention to the problem of domestic abuse in the Wabash Valley.
Monday started with a ceremony at the Vigo County Courthouse where Mayor Kevin Burke unveiled a purple banner reading, “Domestic Violence Hurts Us All.”
Susan Hall, executive director for CODA, said the placement of the banner – hanging from the railing of the fourth floor, across from the court that hears domestic violence claims – was significant.
“If you are a victim [of domestic abuse] you have to take control of your life,” said Terre Haute Police Chief George Ralston, a featured speaker at Monday night’s vigil. “Don’t wait,” he warned, adding that domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous calls to which police officers respond.
Ralston said there is a period he calls the “honeymoon period” when someone who commits domestic abuse stops the abuse and promises not to do it again. A victim needs to come to grips with what is happening during this time and get away from the abuser, he said. After the brief honeymoon period, the abuse will begin again, Ralston said.
“It’s important that we break this vicious cycle,” said Mike Cunegin, executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute in Indianapolis, who also spoke at Monday night’s vigil. Cunegin was a police officer for more than 20 years and said Ralston was correct about the deadly seriousness of domestic abuse.
This month, donation barrels will be placed around town for anyone wishing to donate to CODA’s shelters and purple cloth ribbons are available at no charge on the fourth floor of the County Courthouse.
Also, at Indiana State University, the Take Back the Night Alliance will raise money for CODA all month. A Take Back the Night rally and march at ISU is Oct. 30.
For more information about events or donating items, call the Vigo County CODA office at (812) 238-9577.
Deb McKee Kelly can be reached at deb.mckee@ tribstar.com or (812) 231-4254.
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or email@example.com.
• Oct. 24 – 4-6 p.m. Take Back the Night at Buffalo Wild Wings in Terre Haute, where 10 to 15 percent of purchases will go to benefit CODA.
• Oct. 30 – Indiana State University’s Take Back the Night rally and march.
ISU’s Take Back the Night student alliance is raising money all month for CODA. The goal is $2,000.
CODA wish list:
CODA wish list
plastic storage bins
toilet paper towels
anti-bacterial hand soap
gift items for women, excluding candles
diapers and pull-ups.