In late October, Smithfield police charged two men with raping a woman at a party in September. The woman, apparently drugged, wasn’t aware of the assault until she saw it online.
A few days before that October arrest, Crystal Turner of Princeton stabbed her boyfriend to death after he threw hot coals on her and charged at her. Police charged Turner with second-degree murder, but District Attorney Susan Doyle dismissed the charge, concluding that Turner acted in self-defense.
Whether rape or domestic violence, Johnston County residents need to ask themselves what they can do to prevent such tragedies from happening again, said Keri Christensen, executive director of Harbor, which provides aid, including shelter, to victims to rape and domestic violence.
“We really do have to start asking ourselves, ‘Why is it OK that men continue to abuse, and what is my part; what can I do to help change it?’ ” Christensen said.
In the Princeton case, Turner was still with her boyfriend, Julius Crenshaw, even though he had been convicted earlier of assaulting her. That’s beside the point, Christensen said.
“Instead of talking about why women go back and why they do what they do, let’s talk about why men perpetrate these horrific acts against women,” she said.
“Why was it OK to rape an unconscious woman and then post it on social media? It’s horrific.”
Last year, Harbor aided 65 victims of sexual assault, down about 20 from the year before. In the two years ending, Dec. 31, 2013, Harbor aided 1,538 victims of domestic violence.
Those victims represent a small fraction of Johnston County’s female population, but when even one woman is hurt or killed, that means work remains to be done, Christensen said.
In most cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, power – or the lack thereof – is a major contributor, Christensen said. Especially in domestic violence, perpetrators want the power that comes with having complete control over another person. Victims, on the other hand, feel trapped and powerless, especially when the perpetrator is the breadwinner.
This makes it hard to walk out of a dangerous situation, Christensen said. “It’s the person that you’re with, and you love this person, you trusted this person, you’re supposed to have a team,” she said. “When one team member is violent against the other, it shifts the dynamic of the relationship.”
Sometimes, Christensen said, people have trouble leaving a scary situation because they don’t know where to go. That’s where Harbor comes in, providing support, housing, counseling and advocacy for victims.
“If you are thinking about leaving and you need support, that’s why you call Harbor,” Christensen said. “We know how to create a safety plan and get you out in a safe way.”
Most women who die at the hands of domestic violence do so in the first year after leaving their abuser, Christensen said. Harbor can help during that transitional period, she said.
“We don’t want anybody to die in our community, and we don’t want anybody to continue to be abused,” she said.