Eight table settings sat in front of a crowd Monday night at UCF Victim Services' Light Up the Night event, which memorialized victims of domestic violence. While eight chairs remained empty, their heavy presence was felt by the end of the night.
Seven of the empty chairs at the tables represented students who had died as a direct result of domestic violence over the years. The eighth chair was symbolic of the unnamed many who have been lost to domestic violence.
“In the United States, an average of 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute,” said Christine Mouton, Director of Victim Services at UCF.
For eight years, UCF Victim Services has hosted the Light Up the Night event to recognize victims and survivors of intimate violence. Assistant Director of UCF Victim Services Sarah Laake and victim advocate Lauren Portal organized the event this year.
The event not only aimed to recognize those who have suffered from intimate violence, but also to spread awareness of the warning signs and options available.
“[Events like this] bring awareness to problems associated with intimate partner violence. The purpose is to honor those who have lost their lives and remind everyone that they have the responsibility to intervene when they can,” said Carl Metzger, deputy chief at UCF Police Department.
Kendall Josey recited spoken-word poetry to the audience, drawing parallels between alcoholism and abuse.
“Your visage like alcohol in my hand and then it hits me, he hits me, but not in public 'cause I’m classy, right? Always keep it private when we have our fights. No one can know that when I wake up in the morning, I’m hungover, hungover the railing,” Josey said.
Multiple speakers, including Officer Eric Walton from UCF PD and Florida Abolitionist's founder and president, Tomas Lares, offered advice on how to stay safe. The advice ranged from protecting your cyber identity to being more aware of human trafficking in and around Orlando.
Michelle Jewett, a prevention educator at SafeHouse of Seminole, recalled the murder of her sister and how it related to domestic violence. She called for action and reminded each individual that they deserved something good — someone good — and anything less was settling.
“Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger systemic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injuries, psychological trauma, and unfortunately, eventually death,” Mouton said. “The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a life time.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from intimate abuse or domestic violence, contact UCF Victim Services at 407-823-2425 or call your local law-enforcement agency.
Alissa Smith is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.