I know I use the term “Missing Women” rather loosely when referring to the 6 identified bodies that have been found in Rocky Mount / Edgecombe County North Carolina. “Missing Women” was the term originally coined to identify the 60 – 70 prostitutes who disappeared from Vancouver’s East side in the 1970s-80s. They literally vanished. Eventually, Robert Pickton was accused of their murders and was sentenced to a handful of the killings (having disposed of their bodies on his pig farm). “Missing Women” became a larger metaphor for the manner in which society treated these victims as translucent (think Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and the marginalization of the lower strata).
In the case of Rocky Mount I use the term in the same context; these women are missing; society does not see them; it only acknowledges their presence as prostitutes, drug addicts and general low-lifes. It is an age old practice of blaming victims for their outcomes, then abdicating societies responsibility to do anything about it (thus the lag to form a task force and lack of media coverage.)
The situation in Rocky Mount is so disturbing because it so closely echoes what happened in Vancouver (and what is happening along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia). Have we learned nothing?
Well we better start learning or the cost to tax payers will be in the millions with the reforms that will (very slowly) come in the wake of what is brought forth (very slowly) in the disclosure of justice. Not to mention the endless public hand-wringing and blame that will-out.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Victims of domestic violence were remembered in a candlelight vigil on Thursday night in Rocky Mount.
My Sister’s House, a support organization for local victims, remembered 61 victims who were killed statewide in the last year as a result of the abuse.
The event drew about 50 people to the first floor of the Rocky Mount City Hall.
This year, none of the fatalities was in Rocky Mount.
Over the past eight years, candles were blown out to remember all of the victims. But this year, only one candle was lit and blown out at the end of the event.
My Sister’s House executive director Meredith Holland said the numerous candles being blown out symbolized a finality of the deaths.
One candle carries a different meaning, she said.
“We wanted this to be more positive so people can move forward with this,” she said. “We don’t want people to be happy, but we also want them to feel there is something we can do about this (violence).”
The group was asked to remember the women whose deaths are being investigated to see if there are ties to a potential serial killer. Rumors of a serial killer stalking poor women have spread through East Rocky Mount the past few months. In June, authorities publicly connected the dots between the unsolved murders of Jarniece Hargrove, 31, Taraha Nicholson, 28, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Thorpe, 35, and Melody Wiggins, 29. Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight announced last month that 21-year-old Denise Williams’ 2003 murder also is included in the probe.
Three of the victims were clients of My Sister’s House at one time, said Linda Jones, the board president of the organization and a victim’s advocate for the Rocky Mount Police Department.
The group also was asked to remember 37-year-old Martha Alford. The local resident is in critical condition after being set on fire by a man last month.
Police arrested Anthony Earl Brown, 44, after he allegedly poured rubbing alcohol and threw a match at her to ignite a fire. Alford is being treated at the Jaycee Burn Center at N.C. Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Jones said that domestic violence is no longer a private matter between couples.
“It’s the impact it has on business because of lost time and tardiness and loss of productivity in the workplace,” she said. “And most people killed in the workplace are going to be women, and it’s going to be domestic-violence related.”
As an example, she pointed to a recent shooting in Carthage, where Robert Stewart is accused of shooting up a North Carolina nursing home. He was reportedly going after his estranged wife during a rampage that killed seven residents and a nurse tending to their care.
The bloodbath ended when a police officer shot and wounded Stewart in a hallway.
“Children who tend to come from violent homes tend to live violent lifestyles as they grow older, so we’re talking about a vicious cycle of domestic violence,” Jones said. “They are more apt to affiliate with gangs, and the list goes on. And so it does have an impact on all of us, and there are things we can do as a community to address that.”
During the vigil, Jones said that she got involved in domestic violence causes after seeing a woman being beating by a partner in a parking lot 24 years ago.
“For the next 24 years, I got to know this woman,” she said. “I saw in that parking lot that night she is a daughter, a sister, a mother, a grandmother. She is rich and poor, educated and uneducated, employed and unemployed. She has children who witness the abuse and are sometimes abused themselves.”
Jones said one out of four women and almost 8 percent of men report being victims of intimate-partner violence at some point in their lives.
“Even if you’ve never been a victim of domestic violence, the odds are that someone in your family or you’re standing besides tonight has been a victim,” she said.