Trusting Friends About Domestic Violence and Fear
Carla Stovall Steckline was Kansas' Attorney General in 1995 - 2003, and in this piece, which she wrote for the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence's (KCSDV) blog, she remembers a friend, who was murdered by her exhusband in the context of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, inflicted on her by her exhusband.
"She had known." - Carla Stovall Steckline
By Carla Stovall Steckline
Time to Overreact!
She had a smile that was, frankly, more generous than glamorous; it stretched widely across her gently freckled face. I remember the smile well, because I saw it so often. She had brown eyes that danced even more than her rarely still feet. She had a compassion borne of her personal struggles. In eventually answering the call to serve God, she solved the mysteries of her own life.
She had been a daughter, was a younger sister, a mother of two teenage boys, a Methodist minister, a wife,.. and a friend to me. And on the night of April 8, 1991 she was a murder victim. The church that gave meaning to her every breathe, saw her take her last as she collapsed in its parking lot, succumbing to the five bullets fired by her estranged husband as he approached her from the shadows.
After all these years, I am still haunted by my recollections of the last time we spoke. She had called me in late March from her church office outside Denver. She had become terrified of her husband and had been staying with parishioners. She was calling to tell me she had moved to another family, because the original household had been getting unusual hang-up phone calls; she feared her husband had tracked her down.
I remember saying to her, “Regina, don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit? It’s Marty, after all.” Marty, whom I had witnessed wed her a few years earlier in a lovely ceremony. Marty, a former Catholic priest, who still preached to disaffected Catholics on Sunday mornings. Marty, who worked as the director of a charity that helped single moms obtain training and jobs.
But there was no disputing that the same Marty murdered Regina and then shot himself with the sixth bullet in the handgun he carried. No, Regina had not been overreacting. She had known.
By 1991, the same year of when she called me in April with her fears, I was a prosecuting attorney, an advocate for domestic violence awareness and prevention, and a member of the board of directors of a local shelter. And I actually questioned the perception of the one person who was in the best position to assess her own vulnerability. I asked if she wasn’t overreacting to her fear and trepidation. Shame on me.
But good for KCSDV and others to continue to educate the public and promote awareness of the omnipresence of domestic violence in our communities and to make people understand that this deadly crime cuts across race, religion, geography, education, and income demographics. Good for KCSDV for being accessible to victims who reach out for help. Good for KCSDV for providing training for law enforcement who put their own lives in danger as they walk into an emotionally fraught “domestic” call.
Still there is more to be done, and, frankly, we can never do enough. But let’s try. Let’s all overreact – and do everything in our collective power to protect and prevent! Yes, let’s overreact!