S.H.A.R.E. Executive Director Teresa Smith said the theme for Thursday’s candlelight vigil will be “Behind the Scars are Stories of Courage and Freedom.”

Douglas County District Attorney Dalia Racine will be the guest speaker at the annual S.H.A.R.E. House Candlelight Vigil on Thursday to bring awareness to the impact domestic violence has on the community.

The vigil is held every October during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Sadly, we are well versed on the term domestic violence and accustomed to hearing it utilized,” Racine said. “However, what often goes unnoticed is the devastating impact domestic violence has in our community. Events like the candlelight vigil help us to see the sometimes hidden realities of this violence which can be severe, including the loss of jobs, connections to loved ones, and even a victim’s life.”

The vigil honors the survivors of domestic violence and recognizes those who lost their lives because of domestic violence.

It is being held at 7 p.m. at Heritage Baptist Church on Rose Avenue.

The theme for this year’s vigil is “Behind the Scars are Stories of Courage and Freedom.” The program will also feature testimonials from survivors and musical selections.

“During the candlelight vigil, we are not only honoring those victims who lost their lives to domestic violence, but also developing an understanding of how their scars have led to stories of courage that have led them to freedom from abuse,” S.H.A.R.E. Executive Director Teresa Smith said. “These are scars that one may never see but they exist to those who bare them. The lighting of the candles helps illuminate the path for the victims of domestic violence to find a safe haven, freedom and hope for the future.”

The S.H.A.R.E. House provides services, resources and education to address the unthinkable crime of family violence in Douglas and Paulding counties. In 2020 S.H.A.R.E. House provided over 45,000 services to victims, responded to over 1,200 crisis calls, served over 3,000 victims, and provided over 400 support and life skill groups for adults and children, according to Smith.

In July, at a town hall meeting sponsored by Douglasville Police Chief Gary Sparks, Racine announced the formation of a new task force that will help combat domestic violence.

The Domestic Abuse Response Team (D.A.R.T.) will be comprised of members of the DA’s office, Douglasville Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, S.H.A.R.E. House and the Task Force on Family Violence.

Douglasville experienced an uptick in domestic violence cases in 2020. According to police statistics, there were 403 reported cases last year, up from 388 reported in 2019.

In 2018 and 2017, the police also responded to over 400 reports from domestic violence. In 2018 there were 418 reports and 413 in 2017. There was a four-year low of 335 reported cases in 2016.

Last year, there was one fatality as a result of domestic violence. It was the first time since 2016 of a domestic violence related death.

“Our District Attorney’s office has placed a strong emphasis on combatting domestic violence in our community,” Racine said. “We have implemented safety assessment evaluations with our early notification victim advocate to ensure that victims get the help they need. In addition, we have increased the training for our Special Victim’s Unit that handles our domestic violence cases and have added staff. We have provided training to our entire office and to our criminal justice systems partners to ensure that all are educated on the realities of domestic violence and the best practices to use when investigating and prosecuting these cases.”