There is an old saying that says silence is golden.
But that cannot hold true for domestic-violence victims. For them, silence can kill.
Over my nearly 43 years as a reporter and editor, I have read countless stories of people impacted by domestic violence. The endings of those stories are sad and tragic. I even wrote a column a few years back about a domestic-violence seminar put on by members of the Youngstown Police Department’s Family Services Investigative Unit.
But crimes take on a personal matter when it affects someone you love.
For two members of my church, the pain and tragedy of domestic violence became a stark reality with the death of Danekua Bankston, 28, in February. Her uncle and aunt were devastated by the news. Bankston was shot several times in her Oregon Avenue apartment on the West Side.
Police say an ex-boyfriend, Kyle Rice, 29, shot her. His trial is pending. Bankston has three children with Rice.
Her father, Dana Wallace, told a Vindicator reporter at that time he wanted to get the message out to people about the dangers of domestic violence. He said, “For anybody, if they see red flags, get out. Try to get out and tell somebody.”
That plea stuck with Mary Wallace, Bankston’s aunt, and her husband, Kent. Bankston’s funeral was at Rising Star Baptist Church. Mary and a core of volunteers in the church and the community decided something had to be done to help stop domestic violence and to inform the public about those warning signs and red flags of a crime that often goes unreported.
After months of planning, a free seminar will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 22 at Rising Star, 2943 Wardle Ave., called “Stop Domestic Violence and Rape.”
The seminar’s goal is to “empower healing of victims through discussion, information and assistance” in finding victims the help they need, according to a community flier. “We want to break down the stereotypes surrounding domestic violence and rape,” Mary said. “We want you to come join us and help give our victims a voice.”
Speakers are Malinda Givens from Compass Sojourner House and Dawn Powell from Compass Rape Crisis & Counseling Center. The Sojourner House provides a comprehensive program of crisis intervention, counseling, advocacy and shelter for victims of domestic violence in Mahoning County.
The Rape Crisis & Counseling Center offers community education and prevention programs to hundreds of children, adolescents and adults each year. According to its website, the goals are to stop sexual violence before it happens, reduce the stigma associated with these crimes and expand the community’s understanding of these issues.
According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
One in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
Some survivors of these crimes will share their experiences at this “lunch-and-learn” event. One woman will share how she entered into a situation where she was verbally and mentally abused. Her abuser dictated to her who she could talk to and threatened her numerous times. She will share how she was finally able to remove herself from that situation.
Again, this event is free, and the speakers will detail what resources are available to you if you find yourself in an abusive relationship.
The host church is making the seminar available as a community outreach. If you want to attend, call the church at 330-746-5890 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. A head count is needed so the church’s culinary ministry can determine how much food to prepare for the luncheon.
The way to help stop these crimes is to talk about them, get the issue out in the open, and try to find solutions to reduce them and find safe places for victims. This seminar is one small, but important, step toward that goal.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org