Published: October 19, 2012
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ST. CROIX - Aaron Tutien was 17 years old when his mother, sister and unborn niece were gunned down outside their home in 2010. His uncle now is serving prison time for the slaying, and Tutien said time heals all and life goes on.
He was among the large crowd of people who gathered in Frederiksted on Thursday for the "Take Back The Night March" to help raise awareness and end domestic violence.
This year, the silent march and ceremony was dedicated to Alorra Tutien and her mother, Lorraine Joseph.
Tutien said the community needs to become aware that those types of tragedies must be avoided because dozens of lives are changed forever.
Members of the victims' family were presented with a plaque commemorating their participation in the annual event.
Maria Friday, one of Joseph's friends, made a plea to the community to be mindful that domestic violence affects everyone. She said many people ignore the cries for help and the pleas to raise awareness until it hits home, but by then there is one more victim who could have been saved.
"These were lives that were cut so short, but we have to try to forgive and move on," she said. "I plead to every victim to realize that you don't have to take it, and I pray that in years to come, we won't have to add any more shoes to the tribute."
Friday referred to the shoe project, during which a pair of shoes is placed in front of the audience to represent the 61 victims of domestic violence since 1981.
A similar march and ceremony took place on St. Thomas, leaving from Emancipation Garden, traveling past Government House, the police station, the V.I. Legislature and along Veterans Drive before looping back to the garden.
On St. John, advocates and supporters gathered at Franklin Powell Park for a ceremony in honor of the victims who had been killed at the hands of a domestic partner or family member.
The events coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness month, which is celebrated nationwide during October.
Participants wore shades of purple and carried flickering candles, while some carried signs reading "No More Victims," "End Violence Against Women," "There is No Room for Violence" and other anti-domestic violence slogans.
During the march, a bell rang every seven seconds, symbolizing how often someone in the United States is battered in a domestic violence incident, according to Women's Coalition crisis counselor Sheelene Gumbs.
Rishuana Christopher led the march dressed in a wedding gown to represent the many newly married women who are silent victims. She spoke to the audience about the impact domestic violence has on children, saying that she was forced to grow up too quickly and had suffered many hardships from living in an abusive home. She begged victims to realize that they do not have to stay in an abusive relationship.
At each of the ceremonies conducted Thursday night, someone recited "I Got Flowers Today," a poem for battered women that describes a woman's struggle as the abuse against her escalates, but she is given flowers after her beatings as an apology. In the poem, the woman's final bouquet was at her funeral when she died at the hands of her lover.
Gumbs said domestic violence is a community problem throughout the nation and it takes an effort of everyone to stop it.
- Contact Reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.