Many of those in attendance were wearing purple in support of Cherokee Family Violence Center’s candlelight vigil, held annually in Cannon Park to recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Meg Rogers, director of the organization, told the crowd of about 100 the community needs to express its admiration of the strength and courage of survivors of domestic violence and let them know they are not alone.
“We need to let victims know that this is not their fault,” Rogers said. “We need to support survivors in their efforts to speak up and share their stories so that we might understand their experience and learn from them.”
This year, there were 3,635 domestic violence-related calls to Cherokee authorities, 1,052 Cherokee-based calls to domestic violence hotlines and 62 people killed in domestic violence-related incidents throughout the state.
Rogers also pointed out that this was the first year the organization had more people than candles at the annual vigil.
On display at the vigil were wooden, life-sized silhouettes of domestic violence victims and the three added this year bore the names of 46-year-old Darlene Norrell, 19-year-old Lindsey Norrell and 19-year-old Dejanirra Elrod.
Darlene Meeks, a domestic violence survivor, called for the doves’ release.
“Fly away home, bringing peace and closure to those you’ve left behind,” Meeks said.
Darlene and Lindsey Norrell were killed in a July murder-suicide committed by Ricky Norrell, 49, according to officials with Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators concluded that Ricky Norrell shot his wife and daughter in their home off Spriggs Trail in north Cherokee County before taking his own life and burning down their home.
Just a couple of weeks prior to the deaths of the Norrells, Elrod was shot six times near the doorway of a family member’s home and died after being taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.
Elrod’s boyfriend, 21-year-old Trevor Nuckles, is charged with her murder. Nuckles had a history of arrests in Cobb County, including felony drug and aggravated battery charges, and was on probation at the time, according to Cobb Superior Court records.
Shannon Wallace, district attorney elect, was the featured speaker for the evening and applauded the victims for their courage to stand up to their abusers.
“Speak up and speak out,” Wallace said to the families in attendance who have lost loved ones. “Help others learn from your loss. Domestic violence is not an inevitable crime. You can make a difference.”
Wallace said enough is enough and it’s time to no longer accept domestic violence in the community.
“In January, I will take office as your next district attorney and I want each and every one of you to know that I am committed and passionate about stopping domestic violence in Cherokee County,” Wallace said. “I am committed to working hard for all victims and to make sure that abusers are brought to justice.”
Three other survivors also spoke out, including a woman known as Portia who said her abuser is now serving jail time and she and her son, who was also abused, are doing well after working with CFVC. Portia said her goal is to begin a child daycare service from her home after she completes her certification and her son is now playing varsity football at his school.
“I survived and so can you,” Portia said. “I am so proud to say I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.”
For more information about the Cherokee Family Violence Center, visit www.cfvc.org.