Natasha Cummings, Chamonie Miller, Carmela Luis, Sherette James....and the list of victims went on and on at the Take Back the Night march and vigil on Thursday evening, October 18.
Shelley Williams, director of the Safety Zone, called the names of 43 Virgin Islands residents who died over the last 20 years as a direct result of domestic violence.
The Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Program Jammerz and JDPP Marching Band led about 30 residents through the streets of Cruz Bay as part of the month-long Domestic Violence Awareness commemoration.
Despite the upbeat marching band music, it was a somber crowd which carried candles and wore placards bearing the names of each victim. The procession led from the Cruz Bay tennis courts to the Frank Powell Park where each candle flame was individually blown out as a symbol of the lives lost to domestic violence.
“Each one of these names is a man, woman or child whose life was cut short because of domestic violence,” said Williams. “We are here to bring attention to what is happening to our community. When we blow out these candles it signifies the lives lost.”
“These individuals died tragic deaths,” Williams continued. “In their last moments these people did not get to say goodbye to their mothers or fathers or sons or daughters. They left behind people who loved them.”
While Take Back the Night drew residents from all walks of life, the evening was especially poignant for one attendee.
“I made St. John my own personal victim relocation program,” said the resident. “The last time I saw my son’s father, he strangled and raped me. I visited St. John about seven years ago for a week and always remembered it as a safe place.”
“When I finally left my son’s father, this was the first place I thought of,” she said.
Take Back the Night was a chance for Tracy Thompson to support friends who have been victims of domestic violence.
“I’ve been coming out for the past five years, as long as I’ve lived here,” said Thompson. “I have a lot of personal friends who were touched by domestic violence. Coming out and supporting the Safety Zone really does make a difference.”
It is time for the St. John community to bring this issue to the forefront, according to Bonny Corbeil.
“This is a big issue in our community and all over the world,” Corbeil said. “There is too much violence. We all have to bring our awareness up a notch.”
Domestic violence will no longer be tolerated on St. John, explained V.I. Police Department Detective Carolyn Hendricks, the domestic violence investigator on St. John, who addressed the crowd on behalf of VIPD St. John Deputy Chief Darren Foy.
“We’re not going to tolerate it anymore,” said Hendricks. “The problem is not just man against woman, but woman against man too. We’re here to stop the violence.”
The Safety Zone also hosted a Purple Ribbon Awards ceremony on Saturday evening, October 20, at T’Ree Lizards Restaurant at Cinnamon Bay Campground to honor individuals in the community who support the non-profit victims’ rights agency where the group announced its new name — St. John Community Crisis Center.
“The old name was associated with only domestic violence and the agency does a lot more than that,” said Williams. “The new name will encompass everything else we do — from dealing with the homeless to child abuse and advocating for all victims of crime. Now we can be identified as a crisis center.”