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Santa Barbara vigil honors domestic violence victims and survivors

Four women lost their lives due to domestic violence last year in Santa Barbara. Thankfully that number sits at zero for 2018 but there is still work to be done.

To honor those victims and raise awareness, a large crowd gathered in downtown Santa Barbara Thursday night for a candlelight vigil.

“She had a contagious beautiful laugh,” said Candice Nyholt.

Nyholt says she and her family came to know domestic violence solutions for Santa Barbara County after her sister Alexandra Tang was stabbed to death in 2012.

“She experienced abuse and ultimately died at the hands of her supposed loved one, her boyfriend. That shouldn’t happen to anybody. We want to spread as much awareness as possible,” said Nyholt.

Candice says keeping her sister’s memory alive gives them strength.

“We’re supportive of each other. There’s so much love here and we’re all here to support one another and share these resources with the community”

10 silhouettes lined Paseo Nuevo during the ceremony, representing victims like Tang.

“I fell into the bathroom counter and he kept punching me in the face. I was hitting the counter and the floor and I remember thinking oh my God he’s going to kill me I’m going to die,” said Darlene Gregory, recalling a horrific moment from a past abusive relationship.

Holding back tears, Gregory knows she could have been one of those figures.

“It started off with a push and a shove,” sad Gregory, admitting that there were red flags and she thought jealous behavior correlated to love based on what she witness as a child.

The keynote speaker grew up in a broken home and found herself in the same type of relationship that she swore she wouldn’t repeat at 19.

“I was desperate and I didn’t know what else to do and I was holding my son and I just said Jesus, Jesus, Jesus over and over again,” said Gregory.

Thanks to resources she found in Santa Barbara, the single mom says the cycle will stop with her.

“It was a blessing in disguise. It was enough distance to get me away from him and really begin to heal and just be safe,” said Gregory.

Domestic Violence Solutions handled close to 5000 crisis calls last year.

“People do not report intimate partner violence as they should. It’s really hard to talk about people that you love that are hurting you,” said Jan Campbell, Executive Director of Domestic Violence Solutions.

Advocates like Campbell say putting an end to this “silent epidemic” hasn’t quite caught up with the momentum we’ve seen with the #MeToo movement.

“The awareness is there, the awareness has been building but as far as trickling down, I wish it was trickling down a lot faster,’ said Campbell.

October may be Domestic Violence Awareness Month but the pain and grief is felt year round.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence call (805) 964-5245. You can find more information here.

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