Crucians march in Christiansted to take a stand against domestic violence
Published: October 25, 2013
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ST. CROIX - More than 200 people took to the streets of Christiansted on Thursday evening to send a message that they are taking a stand against domestic violence by joining millions around the world in the observance of the annual "Take Back the Night."
Most of the participants were dressed in purple shirts or wore purple headbands or arm bands to symbolize their support for the cause as they gathered on Church Street, then marched to Company Street and into Sunday Market Square for a rally.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and one of the organization's biggest observations for the month-long celebration is the silent march and rally in support of those who are living in circumstances involving domestic violence and of those who had the courage to leave and in memory of those who have died as a result of domestic violence.
A somber mood was over the crowd as they moved together up the street in the glow of candlelight. A bell rang every 15 seconds during the walk, indicating that every 15 seconds someone, somewhere across the nation falls victim to domestic violence.
Carolyn Forno, assistant director of the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, said the night's events this year honored the lives of Tammy Zolner, 43, who was shot and killed by her former girlfriend, Cathy Weikel, in May at her Estate Smithfield home in an incident that police characterized as a murder-suicide.
They also honored the memory of Burton Payne, 38, who was shot several times and set on fire and left for dead near Kingshill Cemetery in October 2006.
Payne died months later after struggling with a number of complications with his health, but his cause of death was determined to be a ruptured appendix and not a direct result of the shooting or burning, police said.
Payne's boyfriend, Matthew Jordan, was charged with attempted murder and related charges in connection with Payne's death, but all charges ultimately were dismissed.
Take Back the Night is now in its 32nd year in the territory, having started in 1981 with no more than a dozen people walking in Christiansted.
Women's Coalition Director Clema Lewis remembered how the event has grown over the years, and on Thursday recognized members of the V.I. Police Department's Domestic Violence Unit, Members of the V.I. Legal Services Office and former Director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council Lynn Spencer for being heroes and champions of the cause in protecting victims.
Thursday night, the current director of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council, Khnuma Simmonds Essanason, encouraged those in attendance to embrace compassion, love and respect as they take the stand against domestic violence.
"When we stand up against something, we must also agree to stand up for something," she said.
She said the message needs to resonate that there is a need for love, compassion and respect, and if everyone embraces it, the positivity will spread.
"Everyone needs to let that begin within themselves," she said. "Just speak differently and treat people a little better, and it will go a long way."
She said looking at relationships with intimate partners, friends, parents, children and co-workers and showing those people just a little more respect will make a difference.
"Putting an end to domestic violence and violence on a whole in our community has to start somewhere, and it should start within you," she said.
For more information about domestic violence, contact the Women's Coalition on St. Croix at 773-9272 or the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council at 719-0144.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.