‘Love shouldn’t hurt,’ vigil told50 gather, discuss domestic violence

Published 11:44 am Monday, October 29, 2012

For 10 years, Christa Beasnett went though hell.

Caught up in an abusive relationship, she left her husband twice in an attempt to escape. The second time, she succeeded.

“It took me a long time to realize that’s not what love is,” she told about 50 people attending the Coordinated Community Response Team’s first candlelight vigil in honoring people affected by domestic violence.

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“Domestic violence is such a problem,” she said. “I see more and more of it. I had to realize that you cannot control what somebody does. That it was their decision, not mine.”

Beasnett, 34, was the featured speaker for the vigil, coming in as a last-minute replacement for Katie Stafford, founder of Heather’s Tree, an organization developed to educate and assist those in unsafe relationships. The event also included lighting purple light sticks to remember people affected by domestic violence.

In addition to Beasnett’s speaking, Vicksburg High School drama students presented a skit on domestic violence, and District Attorney Ricky Smith briefly addressed the group.

Smith said the community has to provide support for domestic violence victims, adding, “We have to tell them that they are not alone, and make sure they know there are options available.”

Beasnett said Haven House provided those options for her, adding she went to the shelter twice, “once when my daughter was 5 months old, and again six years later when she was 6 and my son had just been born.”

After she escaped, she said, it took her a long time to get used to being free of abuse and realizing that she didn’t have to defend herself every time she talked to someone.

The staff at Haven House, she said, stood by her and provided support and counseling throughout her then-husband’s criminal charges and convictions on two counts of domestic violence.

Beasnett said after the program she has a degree from Mississippi State University and was working for a civilian contractor at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station at the time of her marriage.

Her problems at home began six months into her relationship with her ex-husband, who has died since their divorce.

“I suffered from verbal and physical abuse,” she said as she held her 1½-year-old son Sunday night. “Verbal abuse was the worst. When it’s physical, you hurt, but you get over the pain. The verbal stays with you. It makes you feel like you’re nothing.”

She said she hopes people will learn from her story, adding, “No one should have to be treated like I was.”

“She did a very good job,” said Georgia Grodowitz, community outreach coordinator for Haven House Family Shelter for abuse victims. “We usually keep our clients confidential, but she volunteered. That took some courage.”

Grodowitz said the vigil was planned as a final program to end Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in October.

“We wanted to call attention to the personal effect of domestic violence by having people affected by abuse to attend, and to show that this affects the whole community.”

The effects of domestic violence were enhanced by several notes posted on a purple board for people to leave personal messages.

The notes were anonymous, and some were poignant. “To my sister, who finally had the courage to leave her verbally abusive husband. I’m so proud of you,” one said.

Another said, “Mom, I’ve learned that love shouldn’t hurt. Rest in peace.”