News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 2, 2012

Lift off

Balloon launch, candle lighting honor domestic violence victims

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star


Thomas Pastor traveled 1,000 miles to remember the son he lost more than 10 years ago.

Pastor, wearing a motorcycle rider’s vest, had traveled from Connecticut to hold a candle and release a balloon in memory of John Pastor, who died in 2001 at age 31.

“I’ll keep coming back,” he said, shortly after releasing a balloon into the damp, gray evening sky.

In all, 29 balloons were released at Monday night’s candle light vigil to remember victims of domestic violence. That’s one more than last year.

The new balloon was in memory of Shawn Singhurst Spitler whose husband has been charged with stabbing her to death.

The purpose of the vigil, an annual tradition for the Council on Domestic Abuse, is to let domestic violence victims know they are not alone, said Caroline Carvill, president of the CODA board.

Victims often feel helpless and isolated, she said. CODA wants them to know they are not and they can reach out for help 24 hours a day.

Calls to CODA at 800-566-2632 or 812-232-1736 are completely anonymous and can be placed for the sole purpose of gathering information, Carvill noted. A caller is not required to leave a name or number.

At this year’s vigil, about 40 people turned out to remember those who lost their lives to husbands, wives, boyfriends or other intimate partners through domestic violence.

Many people held candles in one hand and a string tied to a helium balloon in the other. Each balloon was marked in memory of a victim of domestic violence. When that person’s name was read aloud, the balloon was released into the sky above the Terre Haute City Hall.

“It’s always a very moving moment when the balloons are released,” Carvill said. The faces of some family members showed signs of grief and strong emotion as they watched their balloons float away.

“You can see the pain that it causes everyone,” said Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt who spoke at the vigil.

Modesitt noted that the Indiana legislature this year created “Hope cards” for victims of domestic violence who have received protective orders. Victims can show the cards to police quickly and easily. In the past, victims had to carry entire protective orders with them, sometimes 20 pages in length.

“I’m glad [the legislature] did this,” Modesitt said. Indiana became the third state in the U.S. to implement such cards.

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 85 percent of victims are women and about one-in-four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or