Candlelight vigil in Dothan to recognize domestic violence victims

Published: Oct. 12, 2016 at 9:02 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2016 at 1:38 AM CDT
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Sully Velez (Source: WSFA 12)
Sully Velez (Source: WSFA 12)

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - The House of Ruth and the Exchange Center for Child Abuse Prevention is hosting their annual candlelight vigil on Thursday to recognize domestic violence victims and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Organizers are inviting members of the community to attend the vigil at Wiregrass Church in Dothan.

The vigil is all about remembering victims whose lives were taken and celebrating the survivors who are able to share their stories today.

Sully Velez is a domestic violence survivor and she is sharing her story to save another life.

Velez says it takes a woman an average of seven to 10 times of leaving and coming back before she leaves for good. She says she left seven times and returned every single time before leaving for good.

Velez never thought her high school sweetheart, and the father of her children, would one day make her fear for her life, but she says he did. He was physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive. He even beat her in front of their children, according to Velez.

"I said Lord, if there's anything I need to do; if I'm not going to do it for myself, I need to do it for my kids because I don't want my son to think this is how you treat a woman and I don't want my girls to think it's ok to be treated that way by a man," Velez said.

After seven attempts, she left for good. Now, she hopes to encourage someone else to leave.

"Get help. Get someone who you can talk to, someone that's not going to judge you. Someone who you feel safe with and that you can let them know what is going on," Velez said.

"It's nothing you've done. You can't change it. You can only change yourself, just as whoever abusing you can only change themselves," said House of Ruth director, Beverly Youse.

The candlelight vigil will be held at Wiregrass Church from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to attend and wear purple to show their support.

Youse says there has been one domestic violence related murder so far this year in the Wiregrass. There were seven total in the wiregrass in 2015.

If you, or someone you know, is in an abusive relationship, report it to police and contact the House of Ruth at 1-800-650-6522.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.