Houston - Church leaders, civic leaders and a Congresswoman wrapped loving arms around a family of Candace Williams stricken with grief over the pain of losing a loved one to senseless domestic violence.
But out of the prayers and cries of sorrow comes hope of a new movement to raise awareness about the issue in hopes of saving another from suffering the same violent end.
Candace Williams was shot and killed by her husband of five months last week. It was a horrific night that her children will never forget because not only did they lose a mother, they also lost a father. Only the quick thinking of the 7-year old who was awakened after hearing the shots and ran out the home at 3 a.m. to get help from a neighbor after discovering her mother’s dead body. It has changed her life and the lives of her 6-year old brother and 1-year old sister forever.
Williams had been under siege by her husband and was trying to stay and make peace and do what she thought was best for her children in staying with a man who had an alleged appetite for intimidation, control and violent tendencies. Before her death, she had just started a new job. She was a good mother that loved and cared her children.
“We are here with the family to speak out against gun violence,” said Bishop James W. E. Dixon II, pastor of The Community of Faith. “We are here to say that threats to do harm should be taken seriously. If your life has been threatened, our message is “Vacate before it is too late.”
The group stood tall in the foyer of the church to declare war on domestic violence and say “Enough is Enough”!
Dixon and family spokeswoman Pastor Rossalyn Gibson said the family speaks in one voice and plans to be active in trying to prevent this type of tragedy from happening to anyone else.
They have designed a campaign called “Candace Way Out” to help nurture and encourage women to get out of situations and leave abusive relationships before it is too late.
“We have come together as one voice to embrace and inspire people in this city and across the state and nation to call someone, reach out and get out,” she said. “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else. We will spreading the message to educate, motivate and vacate before it is too late.”
Domestic violence is defined at the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, an or abusive behavior perpetuated by an intimate partner against another.
Harris County, Houston, Dallas and other urban areas and suburbs appears to be havens for domestic violence.
According to statistics from the Department of Justice, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. About 1.3 million women will be victims of a physical assault by an intimate partner and most will range in age from 20 to 24 years of age – the greatest of the risk groups.
In Texas, there are 187,811 incidents of family violence, according to 2010 crime statistics. Of those, there were 120 homicides as a result of that violence of which 43-percent was committed by a spouse and 24-percent by a dating partner. In the same period, six children lost their lives as a result.
“We must put an end to this to violence against women and do everything we can to be sure that women are safe and healthy in their homes and schools by improving our response to domestic violence,” said District 18 Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. “It is imperative that we come together in strong support of a broad and comprehensive strategy to address the causes and effects of gun violence when domestic violence is involved.”
Jackson Lee said her hearts go out to the Williams family and to Cassidy Stay, another young victim and survivor of gun violence in Houston. Six members of her entire family was shot to death in Spring by a lone gunman. She survived by playing dead while lying amongst the bodies of family members.
Leaders are concerned about the senseless violence that leaves orphaned children without support and uncertain futures. An estimated 46 million children in the U.S. are exposed to violence each year because of crime, abuse or trauma.
“Violence against women is often accompanied by emotional abusive and controlling behavior and a systematic pattern of dominance and control that often ends in physical injury and psychological trauma – and sometime death,” she said. “It is epidemic affecting all of us, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background… the consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.”
Because of the vicious nature of the crimes, Pastors are being asked to start programs in their churches to help teach the warning signs of domestic violence and take a more active role in dealing with the issue.
Jackson Lee said she is stepping up efforts to ensure woman have equal opportunity and treated fairly and increase access and funding to make shelters and supportive services more accessible to victims of family and domestic violence. She also will work to make it easier for employers to report alleged domestic problems and issues secretly. The program would be similar in nature to the Good Samaritan and mandated reporter programs involving abused children and people in need.
Shocking number indicate that over one million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968 and homicide rates in this country are 6.9 times higher that rates in 22 other populous countries.
According to Lee, she introduced HR 65, the Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act and other legislation pertaining to gun safety. She also is a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
Pastor William Lawson said the focus must be on supporting the children and helping them prepare to a brighter future.
“Our plans are to help this family with immediate and future needs,” he said. “There is no quick fix for this but these children deserve better and we call on the community to donate to help this family.”
An account has been established at Wells Fargo Bank for the purpose of helping the family with immediate expenses.
Please make donations to the Candace Williams Memorial Fund, at any Wells Fargo Bank or bank branch.
Also, in a few days, information regarding a Compassion Concert for Candace Kids will be announced.
“These children’s lives have changed forever,” Dixon said. “We pray that our city and others will embrace these deserving children.”