Guest Blogger: Ann Burke M.Ed. Speaking About Domestic Violence Awareness

Eight years ago my beautiful daughter Lindsay, a graduate of Rhode Island College with a degree in elementary and special education, was brutally tortured and murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Our lives have not been the same since. Not only was my family affected, but it affected our friends, Lindsay’s friends and, as we have been told, “It rocked the community.”

Lindsay was a sweet, outgoing young woman who touched so many lives both during her lifetime and since. She was assertive, compassionate, honest, trusting and, simply put, “the girl next door.” She had goals for herself as she looked forward to teaching some day. But all of that ended when she entered into a romantic relationship that wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Lindsay never learned about abusive relationships and did not recognize the warning signs when they started to appear. Her family and friends also lacked domestic violence education and did not realize things were amiss at the beginning of the relationship. As time went on, we all began to notice things that didn’t seem quite right like the frequent and lengthy phone calls, instant messages, demands on her time, and changes in her behavior.

Our once-happy and carefree daughter became more distant and appeared anxious. She seemed to lose her confidence and self-esteem. Little did we know that at the time she was being threatened, manipulated and abused. Her family and friends tried desperately to talk to her, offering her help and support, and she did leave him three times. We will never know why she saw him one last time, but we suspect she believed his ploy to “just be friends.”

Lindsay came from a family of educators. And after her murder, we learned ALL the facts about dating and domestic violence. We learned it affects one in five teens and that girls and women between the ages of 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. We also learned that very little had been done in our country regarding prevention of dating violence through education.

Our family and friends, together with Rhode Island’s Attorney General Patrick Lynch, were successful in getting the first comprehensive dating violence education law in our country — the Lindsay Ann Burke Act — passed in 2007. This law requires all school districts to have a dating violence policy, train school staff at the middle and high school level, and teach about dating violence every year, from grades 7 through 12, in health class.

Since that time, 20 other states in the U.S. have passed dating violence education laws, with eight states having strong laws like Rhode Island’s. The Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund trains school staff, parents and teens, and donates curriculum materials to Rhode Island schools. We also hold annual poster contests for Rhode Island middle and high schools. Our activities support teachers and schools in teaching this long-ignored health problem.

Two years ago, we contacted Alex and Ani for a donation item to help raise funds at our annual fundraiser. We already loved and wore their bangles and knew they would be the most sought-after item at our dinner. What touched me most was their very thoughtful donation. They chose bangles that really reflected Lindsay and LABMF.

One morning, while riding in the elevator up to Alex and Ani’s headquarters, I happened to start a conversation with a beautiful soul, Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder and Creative Director of Alex and Ani. We had a meaningful discussion about dating/domestic violence awareness and our daughters. I continue to be impressed with Carolyn’s spirit, which is caring, concerned, sincere and honest. It is no surprise to me that her spirit and values are reflected through her artistic creations and her business. I am quite certain, if Lindsay were still with us, she would be sporting numerous Alex and Ani bangles, choosing those that fit her personality. Every time I wear mine, I remember that conversation with Carolyn.

I was, and continue to be convinced, that if Lindsay had received a proper education on this topic, she would have used her knowledge to recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship and would have realized the importance of sticking to a Safety Plan after ending the relationship. It’s too late for Lindsay, but not too late for others to educate themselves. The time to educate yourself about dating violence is before you or someone you know becomes involved in an abusive relationship. Please visit our website, www.labmf.org, to learn all the facts and spread the word about the importance of dating violence education!

Written by Ann Burke, M.Ed., Mother of Victim of Domestic Violence and Retired Health Teacher/School Nurse

lindsay burke domestic violence