Domestic violence discussed at forum
Karima and Tracey Carr of Chesapeake came to a Suffolk forum on Monday evening to discuss their tragedy and warn others of domestic violence.
The domestic violence awareness forum at Main Street United Methodist Church drew a crowd of more than 40 Suffolk officials, police officers and citizens.
The forum represented a partnership between the United Methodist Men and Women organizations and the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in light of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“It’s our goal to raise awareness and bring the causes and effect of domestic violence out of the shadows,” said Barbara McPhail, Main Street United Methodist Church congressional care director.
The Carrs discussed the murder of 11-year-old Bryana Carr, Tracey Carr’s daughter and Karima’s step-daughter.
Bryana Carr was found dead in Greenville, N.C. at her mother Garlette Howard’s residence in August 2016, Howard and Carr’s two younger half-sisters, Ayona and Myona Toone, were also dead.
Howard’s husband, Dibon Toone, who was the father of the Toone girls, has since been charged in the quadruple murder.
“It’s really hard when somebody knocks on your door at 2 a.m. to tell you that your child is deceased,” Tracey Carr said to the audience.
The Carrs explained that there were no warnings from Bryana Carr that there was violence or abuse at home.
“We had no idea what was going on at home,” Karima Carr said.
The Carrs were joined by a panel that included licensed professional counselor with YWCA of South Hampton Roads Mary Williams, Genieve Shelter Program Director Tashaunna Hilton, Assistant Victim Witness Director for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office Brittany Landon, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Meredith Travers and Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson.
Panelists discussed the services of their respective organizations, such as counseling for children that endure violence at home.
“It doesn’t just go away by ignoring it, and it does a lot of damage,” Williams said.
One audience member asked about the effectiveness of emergency protective orders in keeping victims safe from the abusers. Landon explained that these court orders can be extended by judges and carry severe consequence for abusers that violate the terms, but further precautions still need to be considered.
“It’s a piece of paper, so you still need to be careful,” she said.
Suffolk resident Pam Holland said the forum convinced her how important it was for victims to come forward and speak out against their abusers.
“You just never know what goes on in people’s houses,” Holland said. “What’s best is to always tell someone.”
Some panelists emphasized that victims needed to share their pain with friends, family and especially law enforcement.
Ferguson said it was too often the case that a woman would call the police on her abusive boyfriend or husband, only to recant their complaints later out of fear or misplaced blame.
“That’s when the power and control has taken over completely,” he added, “and it allows the abuser to abuse again and again, because he has no fear that he will be held accountable.”
He and other panelists encouraged victims to tell somebody, cooperate with law enforcement and seek out help from organizations such as Genieve Shelter and the YWCA to rebuild their lives and move forward.
Most importantly, do not hold secrets about what’s going on at home, Karima Carr said.
“Secrets kill,” she said. “If there is anything going on, get help and let someone know.”
Her husband urged others to look after loved ones, to keep an eye out for signs and to take them seriously.
“If you don’t take domestic violence seriously, then this can happen to you,” he said.