The following is a blog post by Kristin Wald, an Advisory Board Member of Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (S.O.F.I.A.)
Latrena May was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a neighbor, a woman, a person. Latrena May was all those things and more when the father of her child shot and killed her in front of her East Orange home as she flagged down a police officer.
At a Friday night vigil for Latrena in front of East Orange City Hall, a lot of people said a lot of things about her death being a terrible loss, a horrible act, a tragedy. And that is all too true. It is true every time. And that’s why we must do more than lament losses; we must work to interrupt the cycle of domestic violence that allows situations like Latrena’s to become deadly.
Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (S.O.F.I.A.) provides services to women in crisis as well as to women and families recovering from or trying to avoid domestic violence situations. Our free and open community programs focus on financial autonomy, emotional empowerment, and building self-confidence in children and their caretakers. S.O.F.I.A.’s workshops include healthy teen relationships, how to support someone in a domestic violence situation, and more.
This Thursday, one of the honorees for the 5th Anniversary Gala for S.O.F.I.A., Joanne Paul, knows all too well how Latrena’s family and friends are feeling. Her daughter, Monica Paul, was also shot and killed in public by an ex-boyfriend. Despite it being seven years later, the repercussions — both emotional and in every day living — are still felt. They will always be felt deeply.
Groups like Purple R.E.I.G.N. (based in East Orange and one of the Latrena May vigil’s organizers) and Men Against Domestic Violence provide resources and organization for those interested in working to prevent violence in the home.
The best action any of us can do to honor those already lost is to work to prevent more tragedies. Because of the nature of domestic violence, including the grooming and isolation abusers impose on their victims, much of the work to empower and assist those in domestic violence situations is quiet and private and gradual. It’s not quick or easy or newsworthy. Most on-the-ground prevention doesn’t make waves or get the spotlight. But it’s important. It’s necessary. It’s critical to those who need it. Please join S.O.F.I.A. on Thursday to celebrate five years of our work and help us to continue helping women and families in our community.