Harrowing vigil remembers murdered, missing women
WARNING: This story contains disturbing content
At a vigil for murdered and missing women and girls at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s Monday night, names were read from a card, the card was placed on a table and a candle was taken by the person reading it.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
The pattern was obvious as the names of 68 women were read in front of a large crowd who gathered Monday night at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.
Graphic details concerning those who were murdered (some were missing, but presumed dead) left little to the imagination.
Killed in front of their children. Killed while pregnant. Women killed with axes, screwdrivers, guns and hammers. Shot and stabbed multiple times. Stuffed in pillowcases. Killed by those who were supposed to love them.
The horrifying details were made even harder to stomach at times when stories were shared by those who knew the victims, either as family members or friends.
Many were audibly emotional, speaking with quivering voices as they shared the story of a loved one’s tragic demise.
The painful emotions linked to the vigil held to remember women and girls either murdered or missing in Newfoundland and Labrador were central to the reason why it had to take place, according to Connie Pike, executive director of the Coalition Against Violence — Avalon East.
“We knew it would be difficult, but you know what?
“There is no way to sugarcoat murder. We have to start telling it like it is, calling it what it is, speaking about it, and for people to listen (to) it.”
Most of the names listed in the program for Monday’s event involved dates spanning the last two decades. Leslie MacLeod of Marguerite's Place noted organizers were aware of 61 names a week ago (some were listed as “unknown,” often tied to murder-suicides), but the list grew to 68 since news of the event spread through media reports.
The earliest date linked to a murder involved Mary Hearn, killed in June of 1815 in St. John’s. She was violently assaulted and beaten to death by her husband.
Veronica Lewis, killed last fall at the age of 57 after a car hit her that was allegedly driven by her boyfriend, was the most recent victim.
Pike, who is also a former Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer, said the province’s justice system cannot be expected to fix the ongoing issue of violence against women, as the vast majority of incidents go unreported.
“There were women in this city last night who were beaten. There are women tonight who will be beaten, and tomorrow night. Sometimes the children see, sometimes they don’t, but they’ll always know. We have to start treating people with dignity and respect and kindness, and we have to model that behaviour. ... We have to teach our young people about healthy relationships. They have to know very early on what abuse looks like.”
The fact Monday’s event functioned as a means to link so many tragic events in the province’s history together proved to be an important step in honouring the memories of those who could not be present at the vigil, in Pike’s view. While it is beneficial for people like herself to share the stories of those who were killed, Pike said those stories become much more impactful when shared by family members and friends.
“These women and girls no longer have voices. We have to be their voice. You have to be their voice. You have to tell their story. You have to tell anyone who will listen. You will have to tell it often, and you will have to keep repeating it over and over to another person. And every person that you tell, ask them to tell someone else. If we don’t get the word out — if we don’t stop this mayhem against women and girls — this list will grow and grow and grow.”