Guest speaker Lieutenant Mark Wynn appears at the Roswell Refuge 2011 Purple Ribbon Dinner Tuesday evening at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center. (Mark Wilson Photo)
The Roswell Refuge held its Purple Ribbon Dinner, Tuesday night, at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, 912 N. Main St. The purpose of the event was not only to raise funds, but also to raise awareness in the community about domestic violence and to recognize those people who have provided support for the Refuge in the past year.
A number of groups were represented, including the staff and administration of Eastern New Mexico University, Roswell; New Mexico State Police; the Roswell, Hagerman and Dexter Police departments; the Roswell Fire Department and Emergency Services, and at least one representative from the District Attorney’s office.
The Master of Ceremonies, Jeff Smith, set the tone for the evening in his opening statements. “We come together to celebrate the survivors of domestic violence and remember those who did not.”
Mayor Del Jurney read a proclamation where he noted that domestic violence crosses all economic, social and racial barriers. The mayor then declared October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The Refuge’s executive director, Doug Southern, listed citizens and families who had suffered as a result of domestic violence and thanked them for attending — among them, the Amos family who lost their daughter, Susan Amos-Bravo, in 2003, and this year saw justice when Bravo pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
A member of the audience, Counselor Elena Velasquez said, “It’s so good that we have something like this (The Roswell Refuge) to remind people and maybe they can get out of that terrible situation.”
Southern presented two awards — the Shining Silver Star to an employee for exemplary service, Ermaline Wylie, and the newly-created Open Hand Award to First Christian Church New Beginnings. The latter group gathers, stores and provides furniture to families who are setting up a new home away from an abusive spouse.
The event brought together a wide range of individuals, with acceptable attire ranging from blue jeans, cowboy hats and baseball caps, to law enforcement and emergency services uniforms, to formal attire.
The guest speaker was Lieutenant Mark Wynn of Nashville, Tenn., Domestic Violence Division, himself a survivor of domestic violence. He discussed the failings in the past with the system for violence victims, when he told his own story. Wynn described, with both pathos and humor, a scene when his stepfather shoved his mother from a moving vehicle. She ended up in intensive care. Wynn said he and his 7-year-old brother decided the only solution was to kill their stepfather. They tried to poison him, and when the attempt proved unsuccessful, Wynn told his brother, “If he’s not gonna die, I’m gonna go out and play.”
Wynn spoke of this as a decisive point in his life. If he had been successful, he would have probably become a career criminal. Instead he went into law enforcement and dedicated himself to helping women like his mother.
His message was stark, though, when he pointed out: “More people will die in the next 18 months from domestic violence than died in 9/11. We spend millions in this country to get rid of terrorists when we have terrorists right here.”