Vigil remembers victims of sexual assault

WEIRTON – The Ohio and India Unite to End Rape Worldwide Blackout and Candlelight Vigil Saturday in front of the Milsop Community Center included poetry and the lighting of memorial candles to remember victims of sexual violence worldwide, including the recent rape and murder of a victim in New Delhi, India.

The vigil, organized by the Survivors and Advocates in India and Ohio, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, was one many vigils simultaneously throughout the world to protest sexual assault while also raising awareness about the crime.

Michele Robinson, co-organizer of the Weirton event and member of the Survivors for Victims support group, said the event also included a three-hour blackout, which was to signify the darkness of sexual assault and the stigma associated with it.

“Tonight across the United States and India (participants) are having vigils in memory of the Indian woman who was raped and murdered,” said Robinson, adding the blackout event included the lighting of candles in windows. “We have (Tracie Morelli) reading an opening prayer, while Courtney Flesher will read a poem. I’m going to read some statistics about sexual assault in the U.S. We also have a table set up with (literature on sexual assault) set up.”

The lighting of candles would cap the ceremony’s end, she added.

Robinson said the support group Survivors for Victims had been meeting for about five years, while the literature was provided by the Steubenville Sexual Assault Center.

“Sandra Lyons, an advocate for the Steubenville center, provided the literature about sexual assault,” continued Robinson. “She’s also here to answer any questions. It’s free, and there’s no charge for (the center’s) services.”

Lyons said sexual assault centers are located in Steubenville and Wheeling.

“We are a full service rape crisis center,” said Lyons. “We provide one-on-one services to victims of sexual violence.”

Lyons also said the center also can match victims with support groups and other services, whether they be males, females and children of any race or age.

“We also provide accompaniment (of sexual assault victims) to courts, doctor’s offices, lawyers and prosecutors,” she said.

The assault center’s toll-free number is 1-900-884-7242. The Steubenville center can be reached by calling (740) 282-6022, while the Wheeling office can be reached by calling (304) 234-1783.