Peggy Adams and Kayleen Shepherd are living proof.

It's possible to escape an abusive situation and live to tell about it.Both women told their stories in the second-annual candlelight vigil against domestic violence Thursday night held on the steps of the Historic County Courthouse.

About 100 people - men, women and children - came out to hold candles and show tangible support for the victims and survivors of violence in the home.

"Take a stand against abuse," said Adams. "Make the abusers accountable. Make life safe for our children. We're all responsible for the future of our society."

Adams said she left an abusive marriage of 25 years on a Halloween afternoon. "I remember thinking how like Halloween my marriage had become, unreal. I said, `This couldn't be my life. I had tried so hard.' "

"If you love your children, you can and you will stop living in an abusive situation," Shepherd said. "Violence is not a way to solve things."

Shepherd said her three young children would hide one another in garbage cans in the basement and send one up the stairs "to save mom."

"Don't think you can't do it," she said, "because I know and Peggy knows you can do it."

The key is to provide a listening ear and a supportive arm to those trying to leave a home where there's emotional, sexual or physical damage being done, said Adams.

"Reach out to the victims, believe them."

Gail Stringham, chairwoman of the Coalition against Domestic Violence, said the purple ribbons and balloons and the lighted candles represent a joining of hands with brothers and sisters across the country who have pledged to stop the devastating cycle of violence.

"My son just called to tell me he's engaged," said Shepherd, with tears. "And he said, `Don't worry, mom. I'm going to have a good marriage.' "