In observance of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, candlelight vigils are being held throughout the metro-east.
The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois hosted a vigil last Tuesday in Waterloo “to honor survivors and victims of domestic violence.”
The event began at St. Paul United Church of Christ, where a crowd gathered and walked to the Monroe County Courthouse bandstand to begin the program.
Speakers included Monroe County Circuit Clerk Lisa Fallon, Waterloo Police Chief Jeff Prosise, Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith, Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann and Darlene Jones, executive director of VPCSWI.
Also on hand to speak and present the Peace Keeper’s Award was Kay Clements, a former Waterloo High School teacher who lost her daughter to domestic violence.
Clements announced WPD officer Shawn Wiegand as the recipient of the Peace Keeper’s award for “going above and beyond for domestic violence victims.”
Clements also said Wiegand has been described as one of the “most selfless” officers by his colleagues.
Wiegand has received special training to handle cases involving domestic violence.
Prosise says Wiegand is “always ready to take on new things” and he “tries to go the extra little bit” with all of his work.
Wiegand was hired at the WPD in 2017. He has also served as the department’s D.A.R.E. officer.
“He’s a people person,” Prosise said, adding that Wiegand is an “outgoing type” and that he “fits perfectly” with the department.
Prosise, while speaking at the vigil, reminded anyone who is a victim of domestic violence that they should seek help, noting that they can contact local police and that orders of protection are available at no cost.
Hitzemann also spoke about the “team approach” to handling domestic violences issues, observing that these “cases are the most difficult” because victims either refuse to press charges or change their minds before trial, often fearing retribution for speaking out.
Hitzemann announced the development of an offender-focused initiative that will help track repeat perpetrators of domestic violence, the first program of its kind in the area.
Jones urged those gathered to remember the mantra of a realization of many survivors and witnesses of domestic violence: “Fighting is not normal.”