By Aaliyah Lannerd
Images courtesy of Aaliyah Lannerd
In Loving Memory of our beautiful angel, Jennifer Hernandez Moreno October 28, 1980- December 3, 2007. “Together Forever”
In 2007 my family lost a beautiful woman to domestic violence.
She was my aunt, a mother of six, and a friend to many. My two cousins were in the house the day of their mother’s tragic death. Her ex-boyfriend killed her.
He was arrested for her murder. I don’t remember his charges or the sentence he received, but I do know he is still in prison. I was only seven years old and it is crazy how much of an impact losing my aunt had on me.
This tragedy forever changed how I view and behave in relationships.
I couldn’t fully understand what had happened, but I knew our family suffered a tragic loss. When my mom picked me up that night, with tears in her eyes, I remember asking her over and over again, “What’s wrong?!”
When we drove to my aunt’s apartment all her loved ones were there holding candles. People were crying as they tried to comprehend everything that had happened. My aunt’s face could be seen in picture frames that hung on the walls. Her spirit was with us.
My family had a difficult time dealing with this tragedy. My mom was heartbroken and could not understand why such an amazing person was murdered. It took a while to come to terms with her death, but now we continue to keep her spirit alive by honoring her and talking openly about domestic violence.
A couple of years ago my family joined marchers for the Silent Witness Program, a peaceful march from Courthouse Park to the Boys & Girls Club in Merced to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Marchers held cut out silhouettes of women, men, and children who have died from domestic violence. My aunt was one of the silhouettes.
Seeing my little cousin, who was 8 years old, walking up to his mother’s silhouette and reading her story made me understand why this Silent Witness Program is so important. Their motto is, “Remember my story, remember my name.” And that is exactly what he was doing, what I was doing, and what everyone in that room was doing. Remembering.
In California almost 11.8 percent of homicides are from domestic violence. City statistics for Merced show that in 2014 there were 554 domestic violence related calls to the Merced Police Department alone.
Most people think domestic violence is only physical, but there are many different types of domestic violence, including physical, emotional, financial, and sexual.
Physical abuse is when the abuser hurts or uses force. This is usually one of the most frequently identified types of domestic violence. Emotional abuse is when your abuser makes you feel less than your self-worth. They humiliate, continuously insult, or even criticize the victim. Even though emotional abuse may not seem like domestic violence, or even dangerous to the victim, it is. It can escalate quickly from emotional to physical.
Financial abuse is when the victim’s partner does not allow her/him to have an outside job or education. Also when the victim’s partner does not allow them to obtain money. This type of domestic violence is very common.
Sexual abuse is when the abuser sexually assaults the victim. This includes rape, harassment, or sexual assault.
I think the biggest challenge that I see for helping prevent domestic violence is how oblivious people can be about what and how common it is, and the harm is causes. It’s hard to talk to my friends about it because I feel they don’t really understand the severity of the issue. They know about my aunt and how she died, so I think they understand my sensitivity, but they do not understand the long-lasting impact it has on the families of victims.
The truth is domestic violence can happen to anyone and at anytime. It is important that everyone, including young people like myself, know how to identify warning signs and intervene. I wish I could have been old enough to help my aunt.
If you feel scared or uncomfortable calling someone for help, you can draw a black dot on the middle of your hand and show a friend or a professional. This is a worldwide symbol for domestic violence. Don’t be afraid to help yourself or to help a family member or friend. You could save someone’s life or even your own.
If you want to get involved with the Silent Witness Program, you can visit their site here. If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship, you can call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or 1-800-SAFE (7233) and ask for help. In Merced, there is also A Woman’s Place, a safe place for battered woman. Go to this website for more information.
Fourteen-year-old Aaliyah Lannerd joined We’Ced because of her passion for writing. She believes everyone has a powerful story and is inspired to become a great story-teller. In the future, she also hopes to get more involved in her community and one day attend UC, Berkeley.