March 29, 2010

Vigil tonight; death puts focus on domestic violence

The Women's Resource Center and the Racine Interfaith Coalition will hold a "memory vigil" tonight to honor domestic violence homicide victim Starkeesha Wilkins and the three children and other family she left behind.

The vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. on the front lawn of Racine City Hall.

Wilkins was believed shot by her boyfriend, Fredrick Bolden, on Thursday, in what police tentatively called a murder-suicide.

Cherie Griffin, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, writes:
Those of us in the local domestic violence community join in outrage that an innocent life was taken and that children are left alone in suffering.

A tragedy like this may bring us to search for explanations, reasons, previous signs that may have prevented it. Domestic violence is unreasonable, it is unexplainable. For someone to harm another whom they say they love does not make sense, is not logical. It is important for us to remember that every day, victims of domestic violence are in harm’s way.

Some neighbors and friends of the deceased have been quoted as saying that they were a quiet couple; that there were no domestic problems. Domestic abuse takes many forms: verbal; emotional; sexual; financial and physical. Domestic abuse perpetrators seek power and control. In seeking that power the abuser uses many different types of tactics. The abuser may not need to be loud, or even physical to make the point to his victim about her behavior, her choices, her activities or any other expectations he has of her.

We may not know exactly what led to this terrible death. The facts may not spell out what led to this tragedy. What we do know for sure, however, is that domestic abuse gets worse over time. The risk gets higher. The abuse becomes more and more brutal over time.

Perhaps some are asking, “How could this have been prevented?” It is up to the entire community to make domestic abuse our concern. It is not a family problem. It is a crime. We need to watch for signs that a relationship is unhealthy.

Possible signs include:
  • Isolation of the victim from family and friends
  • Inconsistent behavior or changes in behavior
  • Person seems withdrawn or evasive
  • Victim appears unable to concentrate, scattered, worried or nervous
  • Abuser makes all of the decisions
  • Abuser controls behaviors, movements, choices
These are some signs, but there are many.
As a community, as neighbors, as family or friends we must be willing to directly ask the questions: “Are you being hurt in your relationship?” “Are you safe in your relationship?” and “Do you need my help to be safe?”

Women’s Resource Center can help you become prepared to support a loved one or think through a good response to a possible victim. Call us at (262) 633-3274 and we can talk together about how you can help someone find safety.

Women’s Resource Center is always here, we are always available, offering shelter services, counseling, legal advocacy and counseling for children. There is an open support group every Tuesday night at 6 p.m., call for more details. All services are free and completely confidential.

When a tragedy like this occurs, it may bring up additional fears for those living with domestic violence. The Women's Resource Center confidential hotline is available 24 hours a day.

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