If only...

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There were warnings, warnings I didn't heed. And I of all people, I should have responded. I just scrolled on past.

Her October 20th Facebook post:

"Well, the day wouldn't be complete without at least one 2-minute-long psychotic voice mail from an ex. That's a wrap."

She was clever and sarcastic like that. Witty, smart, impressive.  I saw the post. I smiled and moved on to whatever appeared below her post. Some friends responded though. And she added later "I will be eternally grateful that I don't have to negotiate the house-of-horrors that is co-parenting with an ex." Then a few minutes later, "Oh good, another 2-minute psychotic voice mail. Actually, no, I apologize to schizophrenics. I meant sociopathic voice mail. Apparently the "auto reject" option on Androids still lets them leave messages." The discussion from friends was about how to block voice mail on your phone. 

I should have -- could have easily -- private messaged her. I should have asked if he'd threatened her. I should have asked if she'd reported the threats to the Eugene police. I didn't.  

On October 22nd, I stood in front of the courthouse with about 50 locals to honor the 46 victims of domestic homicide in our community. I knew one of those victims. Savanna was a former student who had struggled through high school, trying to support herself and her addicted mother and missing many days to take odd jobs that might buy food. Savanna had just earned her GED and enrolled at the community college for the fall. This was huge for her, a girl who'd been given nothing. A tough, smart kid. She was seventeen when her methhead boyfriend knifed her to death on June 16, 2010. He stabbed her 220 times.

Athena was a student in my classes in the eighties. A bright, well-written scholar with a biting wit. We re-engaged through Facebook several years ago. My posts are always political. Her responses brilliant, sometimes razor sharp. Always witty. She posted pictures of herself (Elizabeth Taylor's gorgeous doppleganger), of her son, of her achievements in Tae Kwon Do. She was learning self-defense. I didn't know why. 

She invited me to come visit her around 2012 or so. I didn't go. So many missed opportunities.

On October 27th, Athena called 911 to report a burglary. It wasn't a burglar though. It was her ex. When the Eugene police arrived, they found Athena's body. They found her ex's body not far away. The newspaper doesn't mention her son. I don't know much more than that. But I know Athena was not a statistic. She wasn't just some lady that got killed. She was dynamic and precious, with a real child who may or may not have witnessed his mother's murder. She didn't live in a dangerous world, live a high risk life. All she did was perhaps tell the creep to get lost. And he killed her.

I've been involved with domestic violence for over thirty years. I've been a volunteer, a board member, a fund raiser, a donor and an advocate for Women's Crisis Support Team, our local DV organization. I know how abusers work. I know how dangerous it is to try to extricate yourself from an abuser. 

And I ignored what should have moved me, should have caused me to take the time to reach out to Athena. It's too late now. Much, much too late.

But I tell you one thing. I won't ignore victims and potential victims anymore. I can't bear another loss like this. Beautiful woman, stolen from her family and the world.

Athena Slavin, if only I'd tried to help. If only.

Comments

  1. Athena is the reason I survived. She worked hard to protect me from my dangerous father. Being just kids, we didnt' really understand that there were options, that there were safe adults we could have told. But she did the best she could- I was at her home as often as possible, or she was at mine, because my father wouldn't hurt me if she were there. My senior year she convinced her parents to take me in full time, to give me a safe place to finish high school. After graduation I left the valley behind, and in many ways, I left her behind. It took me years to understand that I could keep the good of my childhood, and let go of the bad. Just recently, Athena reached out to me, and we began to reconnect. I am so angry that we missed all those years in between! Maybe we would have talked, and I could have reminded her of the patterns, promises and ultimatly, dangers of an abuser. Maybe I could have helped her, the way she helped me. Maybe she needed me- and I wasn't there. I wasn't there, for the girl who always was.

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    1. Wow. What a beautiful friendship and bond. Lovely tribute, Angel. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for saying this. I knew Athena as a former coworker and she was the second woman murdered by an ex partner in the office where she worked. The other case manager was also murdered early in the morning when her children were home by her ex. I want to thank you most because I was a survivor of domestic violence in the 1970's when police refused to respond to calls for help and a decade later when I was able to break free from his control I found out one of my coworkers lived in the trailer next door to us (I was never allowed to talk to the neighbors or anyone back then without endangering my children and my own life) that they had witnessed the abuse several times through the window and heard the screaming but never called the police thinking I knew how to contact the domestic violence shelter for help but I didn't even know there was a shelter or any help available because I had been told by police 8 years earlier that there wasn't a Domestic Violence Shelter and that they didn't get involved in "Domestic Disputes". If only someone had called the police when they saw the abuse next door, then maybe I could have gotten the help I needed. I survived but many women don't. Athena was a strong independent single mother when I worked with her, and her son was her entire life. I just read the person who did this to her had a history of seeking out women who were social workers and maternal and had a long history of domestic violence, stalking, and breaking and entering with a police record he kept hidden. He had only moved to Eugene two years ago when he was released from prison for almost killing another woman. I too am going to help look out for my neighbors and co-workers more in the future for signs and offer help if I can. I think the best way I can help though due to my PTSD which never went completely away and is always shaken at these moments is to instead do political actions to get laws changed with longer terms and more post prison supervision for people who commit these crimes which are not given the same priority unfortunately by the police departments even though there are federal laws in place that are suppose to protect people this just keeps happening and it must stop.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Annette, that no one reached out to help you but proud of you for managing to get away and make a new life for yourself and your children. It's the hardest thing to do. I'm so glad you're moved to political activism. One area we tried to pass legislation about years ago was requiring ongoing training for police officers in domestic violence. Though it's better now than in the 1970s, there are still many -- especially in rural sheriff's departments -- who do not understand DV and harm victims more when they come to a home.

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