October 2, 2014
By Lauren Leone-Cross for The Herald-News
The lights dimmed Thursday from inside the Joliet Park District’s Multipurpose Center as the names of domestic abuse victims in Will County from the past decade were read aloud.
Briana Valle, Sharleatha Green and Joslyn Woods – all of whom died this year – were the last three names called on a list of 54 during the 18th annual Will County Take Back the Night march. Thursday’s event was held as part of a worldwide effort to fight domestic violence against women and children.
Alisha Bromfield, 21, of Plainfield was one of those on the list of names read aloud. Bromfield was murdered by her manager, Brian Cooper, also of Plainfield, back in 2012 while the two were attending his sister’s wedding in Wisconsin. She was seven months pregnant at the time.
“I miss her talking to me about her baby and her plans for the future. I miss her asking me for my advice and my opinion. I miss being my daughter’s mother,” Bromfield’s mother, Sherry Anicich, said to a crowd of more than 300 seated in the bleachers.
Cooper’s first trial in 2013 ended with a mistrial by a hung jury, in part because of a state law used by defense lawyers who argued he was too drunk to intentionally strangle her.
It wasn’t until Anicich lobbied Wisconsin lawmakers to strike down the law that Cooper was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole.
“Many of you here tonight have similar stories of violence, maybe a situation where you felt abused, neglected, or somebody who’s standing among us may be victims of rape,” Anicich said. “I’m here to tell you tonight that after everything I’ve endured over the last two years, I am still able to stand here before you and share my message.”
Brian Cooper’s sister, Kellie Stryker, joined Anicich during Will County Take Back the Night. The 29-year-old told the crowd of her own battle growing up in a mentally and physically abusive home and how – after her brother’s first trial – she ended all contact with her family.
“I’m living proof that despite abuse, hardships and unperceivable tragedy, fear cannot decide my fate,” Stryker said, who helped Anicich lobby legislators earlier this year for the law change.
Anicich told the crowd she believes her daughter’s murder could have been prevented if someone – Cooper’s employer, in particular – had spoken up about his behavior patterns and violent tendencies. Anicich filed a lawsuit against his employer, Home Depot, earlier this year. She urged the crowd to watch out for each other and not turn the other way.
“Notice red flags and do something about them. Go with your gut. Don’t tolerate bad behavior and don’t let others tolerate them either. Young ladies here tonight, support your girlfriends,” Anicich said. “You need to lift each other up, not bring each other down. There’s so much sadness in life that we cannot control.”
Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, who has been involved with Will County Take Back the Night since its inception 18 years ago, was honored with an award Thursday night.
“[Will County Take Back the Night] works tirelessly to bring the public’s attention to violence against women,” he said.
Also present at the Will County Take Back the Night event were Alicia Guerrero and Alejandro Valle, the parents of Briana Valle, the Romeoville teenager who was murdered earlier this year by her ex-boyfriend, Erick Maya. Maya was convicted last month.
Guerrero, who was holding a photo of Briana, and Alejandro Valle broke down in tears as their daughter’s name was read aloud of the list in her remembrance.
After Stryker and Anicich spoke, event participants took to the streets with orange balloons, marching down Jefferson Street in protest of violence against women.
All of Thursday night’s proceeds will go to local battered women’s shelters.
October 4, 2013
By Alicia Fabbre, Chicago Tribune
JOLIET – A pastor in whom the wife of convicted murderer Drew Peterson once confided laid out plans last week for a program to help victims of domestic abuse.
Speaking at Will County’s annual Take Back the Night event in Joliet, the Rev. Neil Schori said the program would involve child care facilities, landlords, local colleges, volunteer drivers and lawyers. He said he is working with Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow to create the program.
Schori, 38, was a key witness in Drew Peterson’s murder trial. He testified about a conversation he and Stacy Peterson had in which she told him she provided a false alibi for her husband on the weekend his third wife, Kathleen Savio, drowned. Drew Peterson, a former police sergeant in Bolingbrook, later was convicted of Savio’s murder.
Stacy Peterson, his fourth wife, has been missing since October 2007. Peterson is considered a key suspect in her disappearance.
Schori called on hundreds of people at a gathering Thursday to help victims of domestic violence and said he is committed to doing his part.
“I know today that a huge part of my calling is to be a beacon of hope to women who have lost hope,” Schori said.
Part of the program involves getting various agencies to donate their services. Child care agencies, for example, could keep one free spot open for a child of an abuse victim. Landlords could keep open an apartment or rental unit for a period of time to offer abuse victims free or discounted rent until permanent housing could be secured.
Volunteers would offer transportation to women so they could get to and from appointments or court. Local colleges could offer scholarships to battered women and counselors could offer free counseling, Schori said.
Such a program would help a woman leave her abuser and get a new start, he said.
“If we come together and say enough is enough, we are going to be the change that we desire to see,” Schori said. “A generation could be changed.”
Glasgow said he and Schori have been meeting with others to make the program a reality.
“We’re trying to unify resources in Will County for transportation, day care, housing for battered women who want to make a change,” Glasgow said. “I think we have a tremendous shot at getting this done in the next year.”
Schori encouraged everyone at the event to get involved.
“Let’s not just talk about it, let’s be about it,” he said.
September 28, 2012
By Denise Baran-Unland for The Herald-News
JOLIET — On Thursday, when Linda King of Arizona faces participants at Will County Take Back the Night Vigil and March, she will not offer slick solutions for ending dating and domestic violence, although her foundation, Fix the Hurt, works tirelessly to that end.
King will, however, share the 2001 death of her daughter Lisa at the hands of Lisa’s former husband and offer suggestions for supporting those trapped in abusive relationships.
“Your main objective is to be a good listener,” King said. “If you listen with an open heart, that person will feel comfortable with you and continue to talk to you. If you start giving advice too early, at a time when she may not be ready to leave, she may not come to you anymore. You can only help to the point she wants to be helped.”
Since 1996, Will County Take Back the Night has hosted an annual rally to raise awareness and educate the community about domestic and sexual violence against women and support the healing process for abuse survivors.
The event includes a featured speaker, a candlelight memorial vigil, entertainment, a brief march and information from organizations that assist abuse survivors.
Also Thursday, King will present a play about domestic violence at Lincoln-Way Central and Joliet Township West high schools, as King has done at many high schools since Lisa’s murder.
“The more people that can get involved,” said coordinator Julie Goetten, match specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties in Joliet, “the more they can help prevent what has happened in so many cases.”
Lora McGuire, clinical educator at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet and long-term committee member, added, “The recent convictions of Drew Peterson and Christopher Vaughn delivered justice, but obviously at a cost far too great. Kathleen Savio was my nursing student. I volunteer with Take Back the Night for her and all victims of domestic violence.”
In her second year of college, Lisa began dating a man with a narcissistic personality who had already done jail time for aggravated assault. King had strong objections to the relationship and voiced them to Lisa, which drove Lisa closer to the man. Eventually, Lisa married — and divorced — him.
What followed mimicked “textbook” abuse, King said. Whenever the violence became more than Lisa could bear, she returned to her parents. Several times, King and her husband, John, provided Lisa with a furnished apartment, but each time Lisa returned to the man who abused her.
When the time came for the Kings to move from Florida to Texas, Lisa decided to remain behind and give the relationship with her former husband another try. Six weeks later, Lisa was dead. She had received six blows to the head with a blunt object; her body was covered in bruises.
During the trial, King heard accusations that Lisa, under the influence of cocaine, had self-inflicted the wounds. Lisa’s former husband received a 10-year sentence without parole. He completed that sentence and has been released.
When King began speaking about her experiences, Lisa’s former husband tried suing her for defamation of character. Since Lisa’s death, King has spoken to thousands of middle and high school students about dating and domestic violence.
In 2007, King formed Fix the Hurt, a not-for-profit, domestic violence awareness and prevention organization that presents programs and plays for schools, corporations, civic organizations and the prison system.
Fix the Hurt’s latest production is “Domestic Violence, The Musical?” This hour-long production addresses the fight to end domestic violence.
Of their eight children, King and John have lost three. In addition to Lisa’s murder, one child died in an auto accident and another as a result of a home break-in. Their youngest is HIV positive. King feels she and her husband are lucky. Many marriages, she said, do not survive the death of an adult child.
“People ask us, ‘If you had done things differently, could you have saved Lisa’s life?’” King said. “I don’t know, but we do know that if we knew then what we know now, we would have handled things differently.”
October 7, 2011
By Jan Larsen for The Herald-News
JOLIET — Several hundred people gathered Thursday night at Joliet West High School to learn, memorialize and take action at the 15th annual Take Back the Night.
Those three goals were outlined by the event’s chairwoman, Katrina Crone of Joliet, who until recently worked at the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Her former boss, State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, said his office is working with Joliet Junior College to create “an education track” for abused women so they can become financially independent.
“Nationally, 80 percent of all abused women are no-shows in court,” he said, attributing it to the abuser’s control. He believes the program will help free more women from the abuse cycle.
The keynote speaker of this year’s vigil and march against violence was Carmina Salcido of Sonoma, Calif.
At age 3, Salcido was left for dead in the county dump by her father, who murdered six other family members in the worst mass killings in the county.
“Her injuries would’ve killed 99.9 percent of the population,” Glasgow said.
Salcido said she “went from the frying pan to the fire,” being abused for more than a dozen years by her adoptive parents. Isolated, she created a make-believe world to survive.
Today, the author of “Not Lost Forever: My Story of Survival” talks to real people, saying the first step to ending abuse is to talk about it. Bringing awareness to the problem is essential.
“Together we are an army that fights violence,” she said Thursday.
Will County’s Take Back the Night committee, which also raises money to donate locally, learned about Salcido through an episode of “20-20.”
A few years ago, Salcido forgave her father, still on death row, because “you have to let go and move ahead with your life.” She has not forgiven his actions.
A consortium of local women’s groups, agencies and governmental bodies started the Will County Take Back the Night event, modeling it after other such events to encourage empowerment. It is held each year at different locations during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
June 8, 2010
A story of survival, along with insight on overcoming violence will be a key message at the 2010 Will County Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally set for this fall. In a recent announcement by the steering committee, this year’s event is confirmed for Thursday, October 14, 6 p.m. at the University of St. Francis (USF), 500 Wilcox St. in Joliet. Ms. Brenda Taylor, domestic violence survivor and author, will be the featured speaker.
Taylor, recent author of her personal memoir, Beauty to Ashes, will share her story of survival with the Will County community, as well as provide insight on defeating violence and strengthening one’s identity. She also founded Limited Expression in October 2005, offering those affected by domestic violence education, resources and support.
The annual Will County TBTN event will also include a vigil honoring women and children from the county who were murdered by violence in the past 10 years. Booths offering resources and information on the issue will be available.
“In our 14th year, the TBTN steering committee continues to provide education and awareness on domestic violence by providing programs and workshops, as well as the annual Will County event in October,” said April Balzhiser, chair of the 2010 Will County TBTN steering committee. “However, we couldn’t have come this far without the support and generosity of the community – and hope to see many of them at our upcoming march and vigil at USF on October 14.”
Will County TBTN committee meetings are held the first Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will be Tuesday, July 6, 5:30 p.m. at the Joliet Township Office, 175 W. Jefferson Street in Joliet. To donate or for more information on Will County Take Back the Night, go to www.willtbtn.com or contact committee chair April Balzhiser at (815) 729-0930 – Ext. 231. More information on Brenda Taylor and Liberated Expression is atwww.liberatedexpression.com.
Participants hold signs in honor of Brittany Brooks while marching on the Jefferson Street bridge in Joliet during the 13th Annual Take Back the Night. Brooks was murdered in January. Her boyfriend is accused of the crime.