RICHMOND, Va. -- October 1 marks the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and one group is hoping to spark conversations about dealing with violence in the home and how the pandemic has intensified it.
On Sunday, Oct. 3, dozens will head to Echo Lake Park in Glen Allen for a march called “Stepping in Love.” Women will walk around the lake wearing wedding dresses, and others are encouraged to wear purple to let the community know they support victims of domestic violence and they stand against it.
Since the pandemic, the Richmond Police Department said they’ve seen a rise in the number of calls for domestic abuse.
"People have been isolated and quarantined to be at home," explained Richmond Police Department Community Care Officer Carol Adams. "By being at home, there's no outlet. There's no getting away where the perpetrator may be going to work, or the victim may be going off to work."
Adams has spent her life advocating for victims of domestic violence because she watched her father take her mother’s life when she was just a little girl.
"We know when you add a gun to a domestic violence relationship, that's 500 times more likely that a person may likely lose their life as my mother did," said Adams. "So it is important that you pay attention and you listen. People say what they mean."
On Sunday, Adams will speak at the “Stepping in Love” march, which is being organized by Helen Payne.
Payne is a survivor of domestic violence. She said she was mentally and physically abused by her husband for 10 years before she got the courage to leave.
“When I was going through it, I didn't have anyone to talk to," said Payne. "I felt all alone. I was ashamed, and you know, the resources were not out there. And it's like, I want to be the one to help others that's going through what I went through. To know that there is help, and that you are not alone."
Both Payne and Adams want people who are in unhealthy relationships to know there is life outside of the abuse, and there’s a team of people ready to help you.
If you are in an abusive relationship, there’s a 24/7 Regional EmpowerNET hotline that you can text or call for help. That number is 804-612-6126. If you feel threatened or are in immediate harm, be sure to dial 9``11.