Although it’s been nearly three weeks since the Winters community was shattered by violence, things aren’t quite back to normal. There’s not much we can do but march on, and certainly no one’s feeling that more than Leslie Pinkston’s mother, Carla Crane.
I sat down with Carla on Monday to help her write Leslie’s obituary. She’d never written one before. Imagine getting your first lesson on your own daughter, and in the horrific way she died, no less. I can tell you this: Were the roles reversed, I’d have been a useless, blithering, sobbing idiot, likely jacked up on Xanax just to keep myself from self-combusting in a starburst of despair.
Carla and I talked about Leslie for a bit, and she shared a diary Leslie had started for her daughter, each day with a bit of motherly advice and encouragement. Her daughter will cherish that diary someday. All of us with children — this would be a great project to start for the new year. Just get a plain old little diary, and write something every day, all year.
We learned a bitter lesson last month — there’s no guarantee that we’ll be around for decades, or even hours, to tell our children these precious things. Life is so fleeting and fragile, and above all, so unfair. So very unfair.
As we got to the end of the obituary, I asked Carla if she wanted to designate any non-profit group for memorial donations. She paused and then replied, “the domestic violence center.”
I was thinking the same thing.
I contacted the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center (SADVC) to make sure that we could do this, and the reply was “absolutely.” I can think of no more befitting organization to honor Leslie’s memory.
Coincidentally, the next day I received an email from SADVC regarding “Give Back Tuesday” and replied to it, just to confirm that they knew they’d be receiving Leslie’s memorial donations. What followed was a back and forth with SADVC’s director of community relations, Diana Stantz. I told her that I’m hoping to do some stories with Enterprise reporter Lauren Keene on domestic violence, and drag this ugly topic into the spotlight and force people to look at it. It’s time.
I’d already tiptoed into this issue on the Winters Express Facebook page, and several people also want the conversation started. Among the things I posted was the fact that all of the murder-suicides in Winters over the past couple decades have been the escalation of domestic violence. The outright murder of Kathy Miller in rural Winters many years ago was believed to be the result of domestic violence, but no charges ever stuck and no arrest was made. Her killer walks free. At least Leticia Ramos’ murderous husband is behind bars. Now if only he’d tell us where her body is so she can have a decent burial.
As for Leslie, Carla confirmed that she had domestic violence issues with her killer, but there’s so much more to it than just a label: “domestic violence.” There’s so much more psychology to it than that. A battering relationship is extremely complex. I know this with certainty because my own mother was battered and mentally controlled by her second husband, and did things far more baffling to appease him than Leslie did when she paid the $130 bail release fee for William Gardner.
Those of us who have never lived in abject terror of someone else, and who’ve never had their minds bent around the sociopathic demands of someone much bigger, meaner and stronger, cannot grasp what thoughts go through a battered woman’s mind. Those who’ve never been entangled in this kind of convoluted relationship and insist that “I’d just get out” or “I wouldn’t tolerate that” or “I’d go straight to the police” don’t really know what they’re talking about.
What if your husband or boyfriend told you he’d kill your child or grandchild, mother or sister, if you left him or reported him to police? What if he told you, “Just do this one thing for me and I’ll leave you alone.” Would you believe him? Again? Or maybe he makes it clear that he’ll bust your jaw just like he did the last time unless you obey. Once you’ve been sucked into the vortex of abuse-remorse-escalation-abuse, rinse and repeat, it’s not so simple to “just get out.”
I watched my own mother sucked into that vortex, and she was no dummy — she was a doctor. So if you believe that someone involved in a violent and abusive relationship is an idiot, you’re very, very wrong.
In my emails with Diana Stantz, I told her that I want to start the conversation about domestic violence here in Winters, and asked her if she’d participate and come to a community meeting. “Absolutely.” I love that answer.
Diana also asked me to get the word out about SADVC: It is Yolo County’s primary provider of domestic violence and sexual assault services. It is dedicated to the elimination of sexual assault and domestic violence through prevention, treatment and intervention.
SADVC provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, dating violence, stalking, human trafficking and other abuse. SADVC’s free, confidential services include: 24-hour crisis line, safe and confidential shelter, counseling and support groups, child abuse treatment and teen education programs, restraining order workshops, legal advocacy and support, sexual assault and domestic violence response teams, and prevention, education and training in local schools and communities.
SADVC also has a weekly all-male teen group that educates young men on how to use their strength in positive ways, and aims to prevent violence against women before it starts.
Now we’re talking.
Let’s get this conversation rolling, right here in Winters. Let’s do it for Leslie. And Kathy Miller. And all the others in between. In the meantime, if you need help now, call the SADVC: 530-662-1133. For more information, visit www.sadvc.org.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com