Dozens of people gathered Friday on the steps of the Hunt County Courthouse, to offer their voices, prayers to help raise awareness of domestic violence.

One local girl was recognized for how she was able to offer her own support to the effort.

Women In Need, or WIN, presented the annual vigil in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to remember the victims and celebrate survivors.

Friday morning’s event included multiple speakers, who offered both statistics and frightening firsthand accounts of the often tragic outcomes of the incidents.

Andrew Bench, judge of the 196th District Court, said the victims of the violence go beyond just men and women involved in relationships, but also affects their children and other relatives their and friends.

“This kind of violence is about power and control,” Bench said, with the perpetrators making sure they impact the lives of anyone close to them. “They want to use that power against the entire family.”

As such, the violence can continue unchecked until someone takes a stand.

“It spreads from one generation to the next,” Bench said, as children pattern their behaviors as adults based on what they experienced growing up in their own homes.

“We must take action,” Bench said. “We have allowed domestic violence to thrive in the darkness for too long.”

Other speakers at the vigil included Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks, 354th District Court Judge Keli Aiken and Rockwall Justice of the Peace Mark Russo.

WIN, which operates the domestic violence shelter for both Hunt and Rockwall counties, also provided a luncheon to thank the first responders, law enforcement and volunteers with the agency and related organizations who deal with the issues every day.

At the close of the luncheon, WIN Executive Director Connie Pettit called up Alexis Walker, a third grader at Carver Elementary School, who operated a lemonade stand over the summer and raised enough money to make 18 sack lunches for the women staying at the Greenville shelter.

Walker received a standing ovation from the audience.

Anyone needing information about WIN can contact the Greenville office at 903-455-4512, the Rockwall office at 972-772-3000 or visit

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