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Monday, April 22, 2024

‘I’m empowered by what I’ve overcome’: Community gathers to honor lives of domestic violence victims

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The crowd was silent as Monica Conley walked to the front of Scott United Methodist Church’s sanctuary. She set her typed notes on the podium and began reading her domestic violence survival story.

Conley was married to a man, and three months into the marriage, after being physically, mentally and emotionally abused, she filed for divorce. She thought the abuse would end once the divorce was finalized, but then her ex-husband stalked and harassed her for many months after, even with a protective order in place. He broke into her apartment and surprised her in her bedroom. Fearing for her life, she shot and killed him with a gun hidden in her closet.

“I was drained by what I’d gone through, but now I’m empowered by what I’ve overcome,” she said. “Too many people have lost their lives to domestic violence. I hope that my story saves many more because there is nothing extraordinary about me. I’m just me, and if I can make it out, everyone else can, too.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on Oct. 25, people from Central Indiana came together at Scott UMC to honor those who died from domestic violence in the last year and celebrate those who have survived. The Domestic Violence Network (DVN) has hosted the event for the last 32 years.

Indiana’s 2020 State of Domestic Violence Report by DVN found the number of related calls made to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department increased by 65% from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, 41 of the 92 DV deaths in the state happened in Central Indiana.

After telling the audience her story, Conley read the names of people who died from DV between June 2021 and May 2022, according to the Domestic Violence Network.

Attendees at the DVN event lit candles to remember those who were killed.

  • Rachel Cooke, 35
  • Davidtra Henderson, 34
  • Christie Holt, age unknown
  • Andre Smith, 26
  • Iva Williams, 41
  • Latia Scott, 29
  • Savannah Blevens, 34
  • DaTara Johnson, 18
  • Jerica Mitchell, 26
  • Debra Medley, 64
  • Nikki Wilhoite, 44
  • Andrea Aguirre, age unknown
  • Summer Stamps, 22
  • Vanel Stamps, 47
  • Janet McIntire, 70
  • Mark McIntire, 74
  • Kayla Bowling, 29

Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.


● Domestic Violence Network: https://dvnconnect.org/

● Silent No More: https://www.silentnomoreinc.org/

● Love is Respect: https://www.loveisrespect.org/; text “Loveis” to 22522 to speak to a confidential advocate.

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