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Candlelight vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness Month is Monday

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

A trail of light will wind its way down Waterloo Lane and stop at the Family Support Council Monday night.

The candlelight vigil is only part of the Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities sponsored by Family Support Council and the Soroptimist International of Carson Valley, but is one of the important ways the agency attempts to raise awareness about the “rampant” problem in Douglas County, according to domestic violence caseworker Becky Smokey.

Smokey said the center had 1,232 first-time contacts with domestic violence victims and their family members from July 1999-June 2000 and in July and August this year already had 336 first-time contacts.

“It is increasing every year and is rampant in our area,” Smokey said.

The largest number of contacts was in 1996-97 when the staff counseled 3,333 people. Smokey estimates more than 2,000 domestic violence victims will contact Family Support Council this year.

Smokey said Monday night at 7 p.m., the candlelight vigil will begin at the pavilion at Lampe Park and those involved will walk from the park to the center. This is the third year.

“It’s a wonderful event. Everybody who goes to the vigil is there to support victims of domestic violence. When they light the candles, everybody joins together to help increase the awareness of domestic violence,” Smokey said.

This year’s procession will include bagpipe music, and the keynote speaker will be Ian Hill, director of Corporate Alliances and chief evangelist for Sierra VisionLaunch. Hill, motivational speaker, is dedicated to the underprivileged, homeless and “at risk” students in Northern Nevada. He won national recognition as “Humanitarian of the Year” from the National Counsel for Community and Justice, the Nevada School Counselors Association and the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.

Judge Steven McMorris, who is retiring this year from Tahoe Justice Court, will be honored for his work to help domestic violence victims. Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini of the is also scheduled to speak.

“From my own personal standpoint, I abhor physical violence,” McMorris said. “I was raised in a home, fortunately, that was devoid of that. For most of my life I didn’t have to deal with it, not even very much in the Marine Corps. From a personal standpoint, whether in domestic violence, or a fight in the park, that kind of conduct I find disgusting. People don’t need to resort to physical violence.”

McMorris, who took over the bench 19 years ago to the day of the vigil, said he couldn’t have helped half as many victims of domestic violence without the Family Support Council.

“It’s a real compliment. They always had a tremendous amount to do with helping people in the court. It is a great compliment they asked me to come say a few words,” McMorris said. “I have been working closely with Family Support Council for a long time. In all our domestic violence matters, especially when people are seeking a temporary protective order, we refer them to the Family Support Council and they interview the people and give them advice and let us know if it’s a case that we can help with. They have been invaluable. I’ve said it for many years, but without their support, we would not be affective at all.”

McMorris said he has seen an increase in violence, not just domestic violence, since he became a judge.

“People seem to get meaner and nastier. It’s just more prevalent. And it’s not a one-sided thing. It’s every domestic problem you can think of. Another problem, and I think most judges feel this way, methamphetamine has had a lot to do with it. People are strung out, then when they try to come off it, it’s even worse. Since speed hit the streets, we’ve seen an increase in these types of cases,” McMorris said.

A traveling memorial for Nevada women who have been killed in domestic violence situations will be on display.

The traveling exhibit explains what happened to each victim. Following the vigil, the exhibit will be on display at the Douglas County Public Library for one week.