Light in the dark
Victims of violence remembered at vigil
More than 25 red silhouettes of women, children, and men stood silently in the St. Paul Lutheran Church sanctuary Thursday evening. Each cut-out represented a victim of domestic assault and the shields on their chests displayed the victim’s story.
The Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Candlelight Vigil was held Thursday evening. Around 50 people attended the vigil to honor loved ones lost due to domestic violence.
Special Agent Ray Fiedler with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spoke to the attendees about his experiences working on domestic violence cases.
Fiedler spoke about his role on the law enforcement side of domestic violence cases.
“We get called in to assist agencies so we come in and help them out when they need extra manpower on major cases or extra resources, but when we do that, we have rules we have to follow, just like everybody else. We have a guideline that is set out for us of the things we have to do,” Fiedler said.
He held up a book and said it was just a portion of the Iowa Code and the rules that are set in place
“This is the black and white of the law that gives us the guidelines, parameters, and elements that we need to prove a crime has occurred. This book is physical, it’s real, it’s cold, it has no feeling,” he said.
Fiedler explained that while the printed law is harsh and unemotional, the people involved in these cases are not.
“I’ve worked on over 25 cases that have some sort of domestic violence association. Having worked with victims and their families, you quickly come to understand that these cases involve more than the black and white words,” Fiedler said.
He said that even though he must remain professional, domestic violence cases are hard to work on.
“I’m supposed to be neutral, not emotionally involved. You know the line: only the facts. I put this information together for prosecutors to review and then we decide if there’s enough there for charges to be filed. All seemingly cold and unfeeling, but for those of you who don’t know me, I hope you know better,” he said. “There aren’t many things in this line of work that get my blood boiling more than an oppressor who violates the trust of a loving relationship with the person they are supposed to care about.”
Fielder said he won’t pretend to understand the ordeal victims have undergone.
“In these cases that trust has been shattered. I have seen and cannot imagine the confusion and emotions a victim must feel when they’re involved with these violent situations,” he said.
Fielder went on to say that he’s seen victims from all types of backgrounds and it can happen to anyone.
“Being a victim does not discriminate. Domestic violence doesn’t care where you live, if you’re a doctor, teacher, mayor, cop, your occupation makes no difference,” he said. “I’ve investigated crimes involving all these types of people within all these parameters.”
He said some victims succeed in leaving the situation, but not all are so lucky.
“It’s easy for me, relatives, family, and friends to look at these relationships and think, ‘Why don’t you just get out?’ The answer isn’t always that simple,” he said. “The subject that is supposed to love and care for the victim has so much control on the victim’s life, that leaving may be at best difficult and at worst tragic.”
Fielder explained that a victim is entirely controlled by their oppressor often making it nearly impossible to leave the situation.
“The oppressor controls every aspect of the victim’s life. Who they get to see, when they get to see them, where they get to go, how long they get to be gone, how much money they get to spend, or what they get to wear,” he said.
Fielder said often victims don’t have the resources or a safe place to go if they leave the oppressor. He said that is where organizations like D/SAOC come in. He thanked those who put in the work to help and advocate for those victims such as the D/SAOC staff.
After Fielder spoke, attendees listened to a music selection performed by Jennifer Brown and then some stood by a silhouette and took turns reading the stories on each cut-out as a tribute to the victims.
Attendees were then invited to come to the front of the sanctuary and light a candle in honor of someone they have loved and lost to domestic violence.
Brown sang another song and the event was closed in prayer by the Rev. Kendall Meyer of St. Paul.