TIFTON — When Jennifer Thomas thinks about domestic violence, she thinks of all those tables that will always have at least one empty seat.

“For every celebration, for every milestone,” she said. “I think about that empty seat and I think about weddings and picking out prom dresses and first days of school, and my heart breaks for those families. Year after year we continue to lose individuals.”

Thomas has formerly been the executive director of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and is currently the vice president of strategic partnerships with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. She spoke at the annual candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence Ruth’s Cottage and The Patticake House puts on at the beginning of every October.

According to Thomas, in 2017, Georgia law enforcement agencies responded to 61,824 reported family violence incidents, which she said is undoubtedly an undercount. She said that the state’s court systems issued 26,327 stalking and protective orders and that 6,152 victims and children were provided refuge at one of the 48 domestic violence programs in the state.

“Georgia most recently ranked 10th in the nation for its rate of men killing women,” Thomas said. “That’s a national study. We have been in the top 20 states, and that’s not the top you want to be, for the last 15 years of that study. We have much work to do here in our state.”

The vigil honored victims and remembered the 143 people who died as a result of domestic violence last year.

Four members of the community were recognized for their efforts to help victims.

Jacob Teter with the Tift County District Attorney’s Office was presented with the Above and Beyond Award, Chief Superior Court Judge Bill Reinhardt received the J. Harvey Davis Award, Dr. Maggie Martin, director of student development at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, was presented the Third Door Award and Betty Ryfun was given the RCPCH Service Award.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

RCPCH will be hosting a variety of events throughout October,  which is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 22 at ABAC’s front campus. Check-in will be at 5:30 p.m. and the walk will start at 6 p.m.

The walk is a visual show of men who support an end to domestic violence and abuse. Participants will walk a mile wearing heels and carrying signs.

Thursday, Oct. 24 is Wear Purple Day, where the community is asked to wear purple and share photos on social media to show support for victims.

Local businesses and organizations are participating in a Domestic Violence Awareness Sticker Project and a shopping bag giveaway.

The DV Awareness Sticker Project locations are: Tift Tap House, Southern Pickers, Cole’s Cakery, Ellie’s Boutique, Aero Boutique, Tift Clinic, The Coastal, Mejia Design & Salon Co., Chicago Pizza and Pasta, Hawk-eye BBQ and 41 and Main.

The DV Awareness Shopping Bag Giveaway locations are: Three Chicks and a Hen Boutique, Omega Pharmacy, Brother Charlie’s, Redeemed, The Bird’s Nest, Cakes by Audrey, Tift Tap House, Southern Pickers, Christian Book Store, Little Hippie Chick, Party Station, Tifton Drugs, Fig Leaves, Coles Cakery, Ellie’s Boutique, Aero Boutique, Salvation Army Tift Service Center, Tift Clinic, The Coastal, Mejia Design & Salon Co., Moon’s Pharmacy, Maurices’s, Bula’s Antiques and Collectibles, Hawk-eye BBQ and 41 and Main.

For more information or to register for any of the event, contact RCPCH at 229-387-9697 or email nbryan@rcpch/net.

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