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A Brother's Story
It was the fall of my junior year in high school. My mom was picking me up from work. Only this time it wasn't just my mom. My dad and two sisters were there, too. As I got into the minivan I could sense the spirit of grief in their faces. "What? Did Minu die?" I asked innocently. One sister laughed at the irony and then began to cry. It wasn't our family cat that passed away. "No, it's your sister Carol. She was murdered," my mom answered.
My sister, Carol Noel Loney, was only 22 -- and the mother of an eleven-month-old son - when her life came to an end. It was September, 20, 1992. Carol was born in Trinidad and came to this country at the age of nine. Embroiled in a toxic relationship, she had been attempting to leave her mentally and physically abusive boyfriend for some time. When this maniac threatened her baby's life, Carol finally confronted him. He beat her, raped her, strangled her with a telephone cord and threw her body from a second floor window. Numbly, I listened to the details of my sister's death. Underneath the numbness, though, was a rage that would come to define my work in the world and my life as a man: The rage for restorative justice. The hunger for a different world.
The days following were surreal for me: Finding out the details of her murder; preparing a eulogy for her funeral; going through the adoption process of my nephew; and thinking about how this one event changed the lives of so many people I loved. I don't even remember taking the time to properly mourn for her. I was trying to come to terms with the guilt I felt. Only a few weeks earlier I had seen Carol, for the last time, at an arts festival along with my nephew and her boyfriend.
At the time I was unaware that my sister was even in an abusive relationship. I was seventeen, involved in my world of adolescence: playing football, pursuing girls, preparing for college, oblivious to the signs. Looking back now with a better understanding of domestic violence, I clearly see the patterns that were present in her situation. I remember the sullen look on her face as we briefly said hello to each other at the festival. She was not the same confident sister I knew growing up--the big sister who was accepted into Cornell's Medical School but opted to serve in the Marines. Her demeanor was now heavy-laden and timid.
From the seventeen years I had with Carol, and growing up as an only boy with three sisters, I know the powerful influence women have on the life of a man. I can remember the laughter, joy, hugs, kisses, advice and play that we shared and needed from each other. That was vital as a boy and as a man today in cultivating the relationships I have with women. I can remember the times she helped me with my homework selflessly at any moment as well as the words of encouragement that motivated me to want to learn more. I can remember how lovely the kitchen would smell when she cooked her favorite food, roti, from our homeland of Trinidad. The relationship I had with her inspired me to make more of myself throughout her lifetime and beyond. She always challenged me to be the best man I could be in everything I set my mind to achieve. Because of her belief in me, I graduated from one of the nation's best colleges despite the odds against me.
I remember when my family and I were gathering Carol's things after her murder. I found a cassette of her favorite song at the time. It was "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox, which was another telltale sign of what she was going through. Moreover, the song was symbolic of the approach other men and I have taken in sharing our voice against domestic violence. We act as though we are afraid to make a difference and have an impact on the issue; therefore, we remain numb to the reality that surrounds us. We don't have to be quiet or remain behind the scenes within this movement. Yes, we have to be sensitive to the fact that most domestic violence cases are committed by men, but at the same time those of us who want to see it end can no longer take a passive stand against it. The path we have chosen to be a part of requires us to go beyond our fear of embarrassment to redefine what it means to be a man in today's society in regards to how women are treated. It will not only empower the women we love but we men as well.
Carol's murder has been a catalyst for me to educate the public on the signs and patterns of domestic abuse. Far too often tragedies such as hers occur every day when actions can be taken to prevent them if people were aware. All it takes is for us as a community to understand and educate ourselves about what domestic violence is and the impact it has on us as a society. From there, we can collaborate our efforts and prepare in preventing and ending it completely.
As a volunteer, I've learned that everyone is affected by domestic violence. One woman is someone's mother, daughter, wife, sister, aunt, niece, best friend etc. And men can play a part in not only bringing an end to domestic violence but creating a voice of our own alongside women, a voice that will inspire others around the world to acknowledge what is going on and proactively challenge themselves to be activist as well.
The holiday season has always been a significant part of my life and holds a more profound place in my life now. Carol's birthday is on Christmas. So as the time comes to be grateful for the life and things I'm blessed with, I also reflect on my sister's life and how much she has brought to those she touched as a loving, beautiful and strong woman.
Kevin Knight, born in Albany, NY, is a husband, community activist and actor living in Los Angeles, CA. Has a degree in Management and Technology and an MBA in Health Systems Administration.