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Yearly Gresham event honors victims and survivors of domestic abuse with candles and stories

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - During Greshams Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil Thursday evening, Oct. 18, attendees could read victims stories on Silent Witness silhouettes. Carol Amini lived in Gresham and worked as a receptionist at KOIN 6 News when she was killed as a result of domestic violence.

The 59-year-old and an exchange student living with her family both died of gunshot wounds on Jan. 13, 1994, after being attacked by her husband. He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

William Glenn Exum, a 39-year-old father of four, was also a victim of domestic violence. On March 21, 1999, he was struck repeatedly in the head as he sat working late one night in his small garage office. His wife claimed to have found him after having heard sounds of a struggle from downstairs, but a later investigation contradicted that story. Now she and her lover are serving 25-year sentences for his murder.

Those stories, and more, were shared during the annual Gresham Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil Thursday evening, Oct. 18, at the Gresham Center of the Arts Plaza, 488 N.E. Third St. The event was a chance to honor both victims and survivors of domestic violence.

"We need to be aware of people in trouble and support each other," said Rep. Carla Piluso, who hosts the yearly gathering.

The 60 people who attended listened as speakers discussed the statistics surrounding domestic violence, shared personal stories of violence and had a moment of silence for those affected. There were also "Silent Witnesses" displays — red cardboard silhouettes representing the victims of domestic violence, sharing stories of victims like Amini and Exum. OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis read a proclamation during the vigil, which is hosted yearly by Rep. Carla Piluso. The Silent Witnesses are maintained by the Soroptimist International of Gresham.

"These types of gatherings are good for all of us," said Rod Underhill, Multnomah County district attorney. "We have to keep fighting hard to eliminate domestic violence."

The vigil was held in October because it is National Domestic Awareness Month. While there have been some recent successes in terms of combatting sexual violence, like the Oregon backlog of rape kits being cleared, there is a lot more work to be done.

"Many in this community have experienced domestic violence in some way or another," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "We have a responsibility to teach our children what respect looks like."

Nationally, nearly 5 million women experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year. In Oregon, more than one in three women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Multnomah County has the highest rate of domestic violence fatalities in the state.

You are not alone

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has answered more than 3 million calls from victims of relationship abuse and their friends and family. The hotline offers phone and chat services for anyone affected by domestic violence. Support is available 24/7 every day of the year. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go online at www.thehotline.org.

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