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By Ariele Johannson       

November 13, 2013 (El Cajon) – In observance of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the crowd shouted, “No more violence! No more pain!” as they rounded the turn into Prescott Promenade off Main Street in El Cajon with signs and energetic chanting. The East County Domestic Violence Coalition “Not to be Forgotten” rally on Friday, October 18 was also a memorial for the 26 San Diego County victims, some from East County, who lost their lives in 2012 in domestic violence tragedies.

Silhouette statue images in the park were covered with descriptions of just a few of the sad stories of these fatalities. They stood mutely, while in front of them people stopped marching and shouted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Last year, there were over 16,000 reported domestic violence incidents in San Diego County alone. It is estimated that 10 million children in the United States witness domestic violence every year.

On September 30, 2012, Mary Shojai (66) was beaten to death in her home in Santee. Her boyfriend, Paul Tomasini (64) pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

On June 2, 2012, Rueben Johnson (56) and her daughter, Aaliyah Johnson (14) were found shot to death in their San Carlos home. Regina Johnson (55) is the suspect in the case.

On March 24, 2012, Shaima Dayem Alawadi (32) was beaten to death in her El Cajon home. Her husband, Kassim Alhimidi (48), is the suspect in the case.

On July 11, 2012, Deazjnae Banks (19) was beaten to death in a home in Spring Valley. Her boyfriend, Roshawn Broadnax (20), is the suspect arrested in the case.

Representatives from the Sheriff’s Department, Center for Community Solutions, Health & Human Services Agency, Senator Anderson’s office, and San Diego Domestic Violence Council joined The East County Domestic Violence Coalition for the observance rally on Friday. Along with community members, survivors, and families, the group came together to remember, hear a survivor’s story, and listen to a reading of the new Domestic Violence Proclamation from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. The original proclamation was presented by Supervisor Dianne Jacob earlier in October to the San Diego County Domestic Violence Coalition recognizing domestic violence as a critical public issue.

The promenade area was filled with women and men from all of the recognizable ethnic communities in San Diego: African-American, Asian, Caucasian, East African, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Native American.

A Native American survivor, who bravely told her story, stated that she “inherited” an unfortunate family dynamic: “I was born into abuse. Verbal abuse was normal. Every man I picked was physically abusive.” It took her nine years to get away from her last abuser, but she has to deal with him when there are issues with their child. She believes that fear robs victims of opportunities--opportunities to get out. She urged her listeners to read the signs, use the help that is available, and to become empowered. She credited Southern Indian Health Council in Alpine, the Sheriff’s Department, and Helen Fields for helping to get her and her daughter’s lives back.

Jacqueline Manley of the East County Domestic Violence Coalition informed the crowd that there are currently 300 public and private domestic violence partners in California committed to end domestic violence. As people prepared to grab a brightly-colored feather to pin on a board with the words “I rise,” a nursing student from SDSU who was there with others to remember a friend who was killed, led the crowd in a recitation of the following poem:

I rise to remember

I rise to support

I rise to prevent

I rise because my actions matter

I rise because I make a difference

I rise

I rise

I rise.

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