Vigil at Botanica raises domestic violence awareness

Four people have died this year in Wichita from domestic violence-related incidents.

Because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, dozens gathered at Botanica on Monday night for a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died and to honor those who have survived.

Keynote speaker Mayor Carl Brewer said it's important that Wichitans have a safe and secure community.

"We should make that our number one priority," he said. "Every citizen deserves to be safe."

The vigil was organized by Catholic Charities Harbor House, a shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence.

Brett Harris from B-98 FM has been a volunteer for Catholic Charities for 19 years. He told the audience that when he was 10 years old, his 20-year-old sister was hospitalized as the result of domestic violence. She was unrecognizable, he said. That left a deep impression on him and drives his commitment to help abuse victims.

"That's my true passion," he said.

He said he's concerned that when the poor economy combines with the holidays, when abuse is known to increase, domestic violence in Wichita will increase dramatically.

That's one more reason why Catholic Charities wants to increase the awareness about domestic violence.

"It is a serious issue," said Terese Kunze, the organization's director of marketing and communications. "There are still women facing this. There are women who get hurt. It's not something we can forget."