October 10, 2004 in Opinion

Victims of violence remembered

Issac J. Bailey Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News
 

Theirs are the stories that don’t make sense.

A 2-year-old, Margaret Ann Passaro, strapped into a car seat inside a burning van because her father wanted to hurt her mother.

A 28-year-old, Angela Dawn Reaves, beaten to death with a hammer by her boyfriend.

A 44-year-old, Thomas Faircloth, stabbed to death by a girlfriend.

A 2-year-old, Danquan Tyreke Spivey, kicked to death by his mother’s live-in boyfriend.

Their stories represent only a sprinkling of those killed in domestic violence situations throughout the country and in South Carolina — a state that recently ranked sixth in the nation for domestic violence deaths, an improvement from an almost annual No. 1 ranking.

Their stories are already a part of the Silent Witness Program, which began in Minnesota 14 years ago, has expanded worldwide and reached the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area about five years ago. The program is designed to make sure those killed aren’t forgotten and to warn potential victims.

Its goal is to eliminate all such deaths by 2010.

But for now, more names are being added to the list.

Their stories will be summarized in a paragraph on a plaque on individual, free-standing, life-size red wooden silhouettes. And family members, friends and law-enforcement officials will gather to remember them, and to cry.

They will cry for Barbara Grate, who was shot and killed in her house Jan. 24, 2003. Her oldest son witnessed the shooting. She had five children.

They will cry for Shawna Lynetta Deluca, who was shot and killed by her husband Nov. 22, 2000. She had two children.

They will cry for Violerda Quiles, whose husband told a 911 dispatcher, “I just shot my wife, and I’m going to kill myself.”

They will cry for Elaine Coleman Ulmer, who finally left an abusive relationship after a night of being beaten from the bottom of her feet to the top of her head. She was shown a Silent Witness silhouette and realized she was headed for the same fate.

She later died, “on her own terms,” was the way a friend put it, of a heart attack and is being honored for that triumph, a triumph that usually doesn’t come until an abuse victim leaves an abuser an average of 11 times.

And they will cry for Kim Sarte Long, whose repeatedly stabbed, lifeless body was found Feb. 1 in a bathtub in a motel. Her alleged attacker, Mark A. McDaniel, was shot by police officers responding to the scene.

McDaniel’s mother, Bonnie Jean Cox, was shot during a domestic dispute three years earlier and is a silent witness.

“Domestic violence is a cycle,” said victim advocate Linda Snelling. “We have children trapped in homes with domestic violence. We have to educate them that there are other ways of life.”

It’s a cycle that begins with the teenage girls Snelling counsels who believe a boyfriend “doesn’t love me if he doesn’t hit me.”

It’s a cycle that continues silently in the homes of older men and women, like the seventysomething woman who on a sidewalk one night tapped Snelling on the shoulder after seeing her talking about domestic violence on television.

“My husband beats me,” she told Snelling. “Can you help me?” It’s a cycle that affects the psyche of police officers and prosecutors and victims advocates who answer millions of calls every year, not knowing which are simply overheated arguments and which would lead to another Silent Witness.

It’s a cycle that’s gone unbroken and manifests itself in 911 calls that are summed up in hundreds of pages of reports, like this one at the Myrtle Beach Police Department on Sept. 18: “Woman being beaten in Room 307, in progress.”

Or the ones that resulted from the killing of two children less than a year old.

“Domestic violence really is an atypical issue,” said Catina Hipp, a victim’s advocate with the Conway Police Department. “They all have their own characteristics. Either the husband or the wife is the primary aggressor.”

Atypical was SeeMone Williamson’s response to her mother’s death.

Her mother, Simone Williamson, was killed at work by her common-law husband.

Less than a month later, SeeMone had moved back home and postponed pursuit of a business degree to take care of her 9-year-old and 11-year-old brother and sister.

Less than a month later, SeeMone had accepted her mother’s position behind the same counter at the department store were Simone was killed, working under her mother’s boss and serving her mother’s clients - at least those who were willing to return. SeeMone soaked in all the happy memories they had of mother.

“That was my therapy,” SeeMone said. “I talked about her every day.”

She’s also used her mother’s story to steer friends out of and away from abusive relationships.

Simone Williamson’s Silent Witness was added Thursday night. Her plaque reads: “Simone Williamson was fatally stabbed by her common-law husband, Othello J. Thompson, while working at the cosmetic counter at Belk in Conway. Thompson was found guilty of murder on December 28, 1992, and sentenced to life in prison. Simone left behind three children.”

SeeMone said she doesn’t bother trying to make sense of an event that can’t make sense, and doesn’t waste time asking why her siblings’ father killed her mother. But she is honored her mother was added to the program.

“She was such a wonderful person,” SeeMone said. “I just don’t want her to be forgotten.”


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