Friday, September 19, 2014

Where Are You Now

In June of 2014, the body of Shaunda Thomas was found lying in the middle of a Kansas City apartment complex playground. Murdered by her long-time boyfriend, Shaunda leaves behind her four children, family and friends. In response to their employee Shaunda’s death and the prevalence of domestic violence in our community, Time Warner Cable has designed a program for their work force called “Shaunda’s Voice.” This program strives to provide education and support for those affected by domestic violence.

Anne Vega wrote a poem about domestic violence earlier this year, only to then lose her friend and co-worker Shaunda to such violence just a few months later. Anne shared her poem at the kick-off for the “Shaunda’s Voice” program, and she has been so generous to share it here today.

Where Are You Now

White beaded flowing royal dress
Mermaid, princess, traditional she truly did impress
He took her hand and repeated what the minister said to say
She looked in his eyes and gave him her life that day

She gave her heart, all he ever wanted was her body and soul
Two but one divided, will they ever be made whole
The gown now stained, faded and soiled
A reminder of the hope for happiness now quickly recoiled

Silent days, lonely, dark and painful nights
A child on the way, she believes she must sacrifice her rights
Hiding in the shadows hoping no one would notice
Her blood stained cheeks and weak smile, she keeps up appearances

Words now exchanged are cordial and cool
Except for his words that begin by calling her a fool
Where are you God? she cries in desperation
Is there anyone who can help in this situation?

She musters the strength, packs a bag and is ready to flee 
He runs after her with roses and promises with insincerity
She remembers her vow on that now fateful day
Looks in the children's eyes and agree once more to stay

This viral germ has spread from home to home
With no regard for culture, income, neighborhood or zone
Please join me in the fight to end this destructive spiraling social disease
One by one, looking for signs and opportunities, be compelled to seize

Where is God? I still hear that cry
Oh my daughter, my sister, my mother, my niece, my aunt, my cousin, my neighbor, my friend, He is close by
Ready to save for this was never His plan…..but first you must agree
He needs our full cooperation for you to break free.

Anne Vega 2/1/14

Monday, September 15, 2014

What do YOU think?

Is there anything different that I can say that has not already been said? Haven’t we all heard it over and over this past week? Ray Rice did this, Ray Rice did that. That woman is a gold-digger, she must have deserved it. Why didn’t she leave? Why did she stay?

Is it any wonder that my teenage daughter is confused? She came to me and said that Janay Rice was stupid for marrying him. My daughter!! I’ve worked with domestic violence survivors for over 4 years, and my own flesh-and-blood feels this way! Oh how I have failed!

But wait a minute. If my own child (who is very smart, by the way) thinks Janay Rice made a mistake by loving and marrying an abuser, and she has a mother who is adamantly against DV, then what do other people think? What do YOU think?

Did you know that domestic violence is about power and control? It’s a pattern of abusive behavior used by one partner against another. And it comes in all forms: physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological. So now think back to the awful elevator video we saw of Ray Rice striking Janay. We saw the horrible physical violence. But what was happening that we did not see?

Abusers use certain behaviors to influence another person: intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation. They isolate their victim, frighten, terrorize, blame, hurt, injure, coerce and threaten. So now think back to the awful elevator video again. What we see is that words were being spoken, an argument was going on. Ray Rice spit on Janay twice (which in and of itself is a highly offensive, degrading act), then he struck her. Hard. We don’t know what she said to him, but he didn’t like it. He didn’t have control of what was coming out of her mouth, so he struck her in an attempt to gain control. And it worked. She lay unconscious and boy did he show her.


And what he showed her is that he is the one in control. Now we see them married and she is standing by his side in the aftermath of his suspension from the NFL. We’ve seen the Instagram message she wrote, stating that she and Ray will “continue to grow and show the world what real love is.”

Breaks. My. Heart.

Here is my message to Janay Rice: Real love doesn’t punch you in the face. Real love doesn’t spit on you. Real love doesn’t drag your unconscious body out of an elevator and just step around it. That isn’t real love. Maybe you have no one to help you leave. Maybe you are afraid of being alone. Maybe you think you can change him. And I’m sure he promised to never do it again. And maybe, just maybe you are scared he will hurt you again. Not to mention that all eyes are on you now, so if you do leave, what will THEY say?

What can WE do to stop the violence? What can YOU do to stop the violence? The mission of Hope House is to save the lives of those affected by domestic violence. Today we offer not just shelter, but we work at prevention, education and we are here to support. Always. YOU can help us. You can speak out against domestic violence. This is a community-wide problem, affecting all income and social statuses. And children who witness domestic violence suffer greatly.  

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to continue working every single day to put an end to domestic violence. Tonight however, my first priority when I get home will be to sit down with my daughter and explain to her that Janay Rice is a woman in love with a man who hurt her. That doesn’t make her a bad person. And it doesn’t make her a stupid person. We don’t know all the reasons Janay Rice stayed, and we don’t have to. But we do need to give her love and support, and be here waiting to help when she’s ready for it.

Stefanie Shanks
Special Events & PR Manager - Hope House