'End the Silence': Hundreds attend vigil for victims of domestic violence

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Hundreds gathered Thursday evening in downtown Lexington for a vigil for victims of domestic violence.

A number of local leaders spoke, as did several survivors of domestic violence. Different community groups set up tables to show resources that are available to help victims. The crowd released balloons to honor and remember victims, and lit candles in memory of lives that were cut short.

It is the third year the Fayette County Sheriff's Office has held the vigil. Organizers say they do it to end the silence and stigma surrounding domestic violence, so victims can seek help.

"This event gets people talking," said Fayette Co. Sheriff Kathy Witt. "[Domestic violence] is allowed to exist because they're silent about it. They're afraid to come forward. They're afraid no one will understand. Often times they're ashamed, and they don't need to be."

The sheriff's office also announced two new programs to help domestic violence survivors. One is a rideshare program for victims to help them get to critical events such as medical appointments and job interviews. The other allows their domestic violence center to better monitor perpetrators in certain cases.

Survivors who spoke said they hope sharing their stories gives other victims courage and strength.

"The strength to come forward, the strength to stand up for themselves and to get away from a terrible situation," said Carrie Ross. "Speak up, stand up. It all starts with you."

Find more domestic violence resources here.