LARGO – The Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force will host a candlelight vigil to remember those victims who lost their lives in 2012.
Twelve people in Pinellas County were killed by their abusers last year, according to the task force. That isn’t an annual record for domestic homicides, but far more than the task force likes to report and enough to prompt a vigil in their honor.
“We don’t do (vigils) every year,” said Frieda Widera, a member of the task force. “This year, because we had such a high number for 2012, we just felt like we had to.”
The vigil will be held on Sunday, Feb. 24, 7 to 8 p.m., at Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. The group will meet at the reflecting pond near the flags. Parking is free. Candles will be provided.
“We feel that it’s absolutely imperative that as a community we recognize domestic homicide and its impact,” Widera said.
As a victim advocate specializing in domestic violence cases for the Largo Police Department, Widera helps victims find the resources they need to escape their dangerous situation.
She also is chair for the domestic violence task force’s fatality review team, which since 2000 has examined every Pinellas County homicide case in which authorities point to domestic violence as the cause. The team looks for patterns and trends to try to develop new ways of intervention and prevention. The focus is on education in the community, Widera said.
“Let’s take a tragedy and, as a community, learn from it and make changes,” she explained.
Outside of the sheer number of domestic fatalities, 2012 saw a higher ratio of homicide-suicide cases, in which the aggressor takes his or her own life after killing his or her partner. Five of the cases in 2012 ended in suicide.
“We decided we needed to do something to highlight that,” Widera said.
One fatality the task force will review is a case in which the reported victim, who was never arrested or charged, killed her aggressor.
The task force can only speculate on the reasons for the increase in domestic fatalities.
“We can always guess, but identifying what could be a pattern or a trend really takes years,” Widera said.
The fatality review team looks at cases only after they close, which – depending on law enforcement’s investigation and any prosecution that might follow – could be years after the victim’s death. Widera said the team has hypothesized that increased stressors in the community, including financial hardships and housing complications, could be exacerbating existing problems within relationships to the point where “ending it all” seems a more desirable alternative.
The data the review team compiles into an annual report – available along with domestic violence resources at www.dvtf.org – provides tangible information about violence in the county, Widera explained.
“It gives us something more than anecdotal experience,” she said.
If family and friends see elements that have been statically pervasive in domestic fatality cases, they can act on it.
“Friends and family can be concerned and worried but don’t feel connected enough to know what to do,” Widera said. “(The data) allows people to feel like they have an opportunity for intervention.”
For more information about the vigil, call Widera at 586-7481.