Other People, Not Me.

I named this blog entry, “Other People, Not Me” because that was an attitude I had many years ago when it came to topics like domestic violence.  I will explain why I don’t feel that way anymore, along with how some of the experiences in my life got me interested in the great work that Kaity’s Way is doing to promote awareness in the community regarding teen dating and domestic violence. 

This month marks a sad anniversary for me. Twenty years ago I was moonlighting as a security guard at an office building in the suburbs of Chicago.  I had only just started a career in law enforcement was working a second job to help pay the bills.  One of my assigned guard duties was to walk employees who worked in the building to their cars at night.  At the time I thought it was kind of unnecessary.  The building was located in such an affluent area that I didn’t think anything would ever happen there, but I did my job anyway. 

While working there I met a young lady named Rebecca Drew who also worked in the building.  Rebecca was outgoing and funny and always stopped to talk and joke with me.  She was a beautiful 25 year old women who had her whole life ahead of her.  Tragically, she became the victim of a violent crime when she arrived to work one morning.  There were no security personnel on duty in the mornings, and Rebecca was attacked and killed in the buildings parking garage by one of her co-workers who reportedly had unsuccessfully tried to date her.  There was no warning or indication to anyone involved with the security of the building that anything like this would happen.  I also never learned the details of what transpired prior to this tragic event.    

When I received the news later that day I was shocked and heart-broken.  Despite working on similar types of cases at my day job, I never thought something so horrible would happen to someone I knew.  I was relieved to learn a few days later that her killer was identified and arrested based on footage that was captured on videotape by the buildings camera system, a videotape that I had changed out the night before as part of my guard duties.   (link: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-02-15/news/9602150177_1_parking-garage-lake-county-jail-cook-county-medical-examiner  )

At the time this happened, I was working in a Chicago courthouse as an investigator for the county prosecutors office.  Coincidentally, my employer had formed a new division to combat the heavy caseload of domestic violence (DV) and abuse that the office prosecuted, and the unique challenges that these cases presented.  My job was to go out and locate DV victims, sometimes months after the assault, and persuade them to come to court to testify.  I quickly learned that these are some of the most complicated and challenging cases in the criminal justice system. 

As I talked to the victims, I saw first-hand the fear, shame, confliction, and helplessness that they felt.  I was discouraged when I failed to get them to seek justice against their abuser and participate in the process of recovery, and was gratified when I did.  It was tough and complicated work but Rebecca’s murder personalized the issue for me and strengthened my resolve to fight for the victims.  It was a tremendous learning experience, and one that I have carried with me all these years.  I realized that bad things can happen to good people, not just “other people”, even people we may know well and love. 
Part of being a good parent, friend, family member, teacher, mentor, or coach is to be present and aware of the situations that the people in our life are facing.  Relationship violence and abuse is not an easy thing to understand or discuss.  The statistics are sobering, and the same feelings of fear, shame, confliction, and helplessness that I saw in DV victims back then are just as valid today.

 The Kaity’s Way website is a good resource to learn to recognize warning signs that may be present in the people and relationships in your life, especially teenagers who may be particularly vulnerable at their age.  I encourage everyone to be awake and aware, and support those in need to take the necessary steps to get help.

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