Virgin Islanders set to 'Take Back the Night' from violence Thursday
Published: October 23, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Domestic Violence outreach centers across the territory are joining others nationwide Thursday and will take to the streets in hopes that they can one day "Take Back the Night."
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and one of the organization's biggest observations for the monthlong celebration is the silent march and rally in support of those who are living in circumstances involving domestic violence and in memory of those who have died as a result of domestic violence.
Carolyn Forno, assistant director of the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, said battered women's advocates have been working this month to focus public attention on the epidemic of domestic violence and encouraging all members of the community to become part of the solution. Thousands of victims in the territory report domestic violence incidents each year, and more than 100 people across the territory have been killed because of domestic violence in recent history, she said.
The annual "Take Back the Night" candlelight march will be on Thursday across the nation and is a way for residents to show their support and for the organizations to share information and raise awareness on how domestic violence directly affects victims and the entire community.
The event is now in its 32nd year in the territory, having started in 1981 with no more than a dozen people walking in Christiansted.
Forno said the night's events on St. Croix this year will honor the lives of Tammy Zolner and Burton Payne, who were victims of domestic violence.
Zolner, 43, 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.
Payne, 38, was shot and set on fire and left for dead near Kingshill Cemetery in October 2006.
He told police that after a disagreement, his boyfriend, Matthew Jordan, shot him and set the Ford Escape that Payne was in on fire. Police said Payne was shot several times in his upper body, twice in his face and once in his forehead. He had serious burns on his arms and legs and was airlifted for medical attention.
Jordan was charged with attempted murder and related charges, which ultimately were dismissed.
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.
On St. Thomas, Vivian St. Juste, director of the Family Resource Center, said the gathering at Emancipation Garden does not pay tribute to any special victim, but it will include a special tribute by Voices of Love Choir in honor of someone who was lost.
She said people from the audience will be given an opportunity to give tributes to their lost loved ones, and everyone will have a special time of reflection during the "Remember My Name" roll call segment of the event.
On St. John, the event will be similar, and Alan Smith, a retired V.I. Superior Court judge, will be the guest speaker. In addition to the tributes, Pan Aire steel orchestra will provide entertainment for the evening.
Forno said too many people have died and too many children have lost their innocence, while many others of all ages remain emotionally scarred and it is time for the community to say that enough is enough.
"No child should dread coming home, but it is happening," she said. "This month, we have been raising awareness about domestic violence, providing people with ideas for action and letting victims who are abused know that they are not alone and that help is available."
For more information, contact the coalition on St. Croix at 773-9272; the Family Resource Center on St. Thomas at 776-3966; and the Safety Zone on St. John at 693-7233.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.