By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News
April 9, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — This week, communities across the nation are pausing to recognize people who have been victims of crimes.
Tuesday night’s candles represent flames for the fallen, and a light at the end of the tunnel for survivors.
“What we’re doing here tonight is shining a light on the fact that our victims are often forgotten after the crime or the horrific event takes place,” said Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil.
For some like Alicia Armstrong, forgetting isn’t an option.
Armstrong is a survivor of an abusive relationship and says her dog, Harper Lee, was her saving grace to get out. Now, she uses her past as a chance to help others.
“It’s very empowering and very therapeutic to have a forum to share your story,” she said.
Armstrong said events like this not only allow her a chance to heal, but they also expose hidden resources in the community that can be life saving to those in need.
“I want them to know that there are other people who have been in their shoes. There are lots of people unfortunately in that situation right now, and there are community resources to help,” Armstrong continued.
Jasmine Underwood with the Refuge House said more often than not, people will come up to her and say, “I didn’t know these resources were here to help me.”
She explained how comments like that lead to questions like, what would have been different had they had family or friends, additional resources or different community agencies that are available? Or they felt comfortable to reach out for resources?
Sheriff McNeil hopes lawmakers receive their message and help move the needle toward change.
“We hope to send a message to leaders in this state that everything we can do to make victims whole, we should be about trying to do that,” McNeil said.
Victims who didn’t survive were also remembered and those attending the vigil say the ultimate goal is to “light the way so that we don’t have anymore.”
This was the first year for the event. The sheriff’s office is looking forward to seeing it grow in the years to come.