An estimated 46 million children in the U.S. are exposed to violence each year through crime, abuse and trauma. Let that sink in for a moment.
Sadly, three more African American children were added to that list this past week, after being in the apartment when their mother was shot and killed by her estranged husband.
Last Thursday, July 17, 7-year-old Neira, 6-year-old Torian, and 1-year-old Paris were left without their loving mother following a tragic murder-suicide in their north Houston apartment.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the Founder and Co-Chair of the House Children’s Caucus, joined together with Bishop James Dixon II, Pastor Emeritus William Lawson, the immediate family of Candace Williams and other concerned community citizens at a press conference at The Community of Faith this past Tuesday to address this tragic incident and call for an end to domestic violence that leaves children orphaned.
Williams, 26, was murdered by her 24-year-old husband, Phillip Deckard, after a history of alleged domestic violence that eventually led to her death. After killing his wife, Deckard then went to the closet and turned the gun on himself, according to reports.
According to friends and neighbors close to the situation, the couple had been having issues and there may have been incidents of domestic violence from the beginning. According to reports, Deckard and Williams were actually newlyweds, who had known one another since childhood but dated less than a year and just got married in February 2014.
On the heels of the recent tragedy in Spring, Texas, another child hero emerged in the midst of a tragic situation. In this case, 7-year-old Neira, who happened to be awake when Deckard entered the apartment, heard the fatal gunshots that killed her mother and Deckard. After coming out of her room to see what happened, Neira discovered her mother had been shot dead and left the apartment at 3 a.m. to seek help from a neighbor.
There is no way to determine what emotional and psychological trauma this incident has had on all three of these children. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime. Sadly, one-year-old, Paris, was asleep next to her mother when the shooting took place.
"This infant child (Paris) was asleep and made warm by her mother’s body one minute, and then to still be next to her mother’s dead body after the shooting is inconceivable," said Congresswoman Jackson Lee. "My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and relatives of Candace Williams. A few days earlier Stephen and Katie Stay along with their children Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 6, and Zach, 4, had their lives taken from them when they were all shot and killed. 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."
Congresswoman Jackson Lee who has already introduced HR 65, the Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act, plans to introduce another piece of legislation to curb gun violence and increase penalties on those who use a gun to commit domestic violence.
Rev. Lawson indicated that while there has been an outpouring of support for the surviving victim of the Stay tragedy in Spring, these young children need the never-ending support of the community as well.
"If we can respond to the Stay tragedy in Spring, then we certainly ought to be able to respond to this tragedy," said Rev. Lawson. "This family has the task of raising these young children and they need our support, not just today, but for as long as it takes to see them through this tragedy."
Bishop Dixon echoed the sentiments of Rev. Lawson.
"We want to commend citizens in our region for responding in love to help children like Cassidy, the heroic 15-year-old survivor of the Stay tragedy in Spring," said Bishop Dixon. "We also want to call on you once more on behalf of Neira, Torian and Paris. We cannot imagine their state of need. These children deserve to go to college and make something out of their lives too."
Also in attendance was Candace’s mother Monica Williams, her grandmother Lucille Sweazie and the family spokesperson Rev. Rosslyn Gibson. The family introduced the Candace Way Out initiative as an avenue to give people an alternative and give them a way out of a domestic violence situation without feeling ashamed and embarrassed to come forth and seek the help to come forward.
Bishop Dixon called on professional counselors to provide necessary services for the family and to help the family with immediate and future needs. An account has been established at Wells Fargo for the purpose of making donations at any Wells Fargo location to the Candace Williams Memorial Fund. He also called on other members of the faith-based communities to get involved and announced a Family Health & Healing Month for the month of October with focused activities that would culminate with a Domestic Violence awareness message being delivered from the pulpit of all churches who participate. Bishop Dixon is also planning an upcoming Compassion Concert for Candace’s Kids.
Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control.
Here are some sobering statistics as it relates to domestic violence:
- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime
- An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year
- 85% of domestic violence victims are women
- Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew
- Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence
- Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police
- Here are some sobering statistics about Texas as it relates to domestic violence:
- There were 187,811 incidents of family violence in 2010 in Texas
- In Texas, there were 12,356 adults living in domestic violence shelters in 2010
- There were 120 homicides as a result of domestic violence in 2010 in Texas
- Of those 120 domestic violence homicides in Texas, 43% were committed by a spouse and 24% were committed by a dating partner
- Six children were killed in Texas as a result of domestic violence in 2010
- Here are some sobering statistics about children who witness domestic violence:
- Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults
- 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic that affects many individuals, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.
Domestic violence usually results in physical injury, psychological trauma - and as we have seen here in Houston - sometimes death. Candace Williams was one of those unfortunate tragedies.
The funeral for Candace Williams will be held Saturday, July 26 at 11 a.m. at Grace Cathedral Church, 9410 Mesa Dr.