It was getting late on a warm February evening in 2015 when Lisa Marie Gastelum set out to photocopy divorce documents at a FedEx store in Stevenson Ranch. Her husband was with her, and as they left the store, a fast-food worker nearby heard shots fired. He thought it was a car collision.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, they found the couple shot dead in the parking lot.
That murder-suicide – investigators determined the husband killed his wife – was the third in a series of domestic violence-related slayings to hit the Santa Clarita Valley in 2015 as children killed parents, spouses killed each other, parents killed children and siblings killed each other in a cascade of violence that made it impossible to just look the other way – which is too often the reaction in such cases, says Linda Davies, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley.
Eight homicides rooted in domestic violence occurred in the SCV before year’s end.
“This is the year we actually started to admit that (domestic violence is) in our community,” Davies said during an interview late in 2015. “And that we can’t do nothing, especially when there are deaths occurring.”
The Signal sponsored a public forum on domestic violence that year, and last year sponsored a summit on the issue. The second such summit is scheduled Sept. 15 this year at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center at College of the Canyons. The college is co-sponsoring the summit.
Events such as the domestic violence summits are important to keep communities aware of life-damaging and potentially deadly practices that may be going on behind closed doors just down the street, next door or in children’s friends’ households.
“Just because someone isn’t dying of (domestic violence injuries) doesn’t mean their lives aren’t being injured, their children’s lives aren’t being injured,” Davies said Friday.
“Every nine seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten.”
Benefitting the SCV Domestic Violence Center and the Coalition for Family Harmony in Oxnard, the summit will feature as keynote speaker Patricia Wenskunas, founder and CEO of Crime Survivors Inc., and as closing speaker Ana Figueredo, a survivor of domestic abuse. Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth will deliver the welcome message.
Breakout sessions during the summit will feature:
- Ways people of faith can offer more support to victims of domestic violence within the framework of their faith organizations;
- Ways to assist workers, employees and victims when domestic violence intrudes on the work place;
- How law enforcement officials can best work with victims of domestic violence;
- Heightened dangers posed by the upswing in strangulation abuse.
2015’s stunning domestic violence toll has not risen to such high levels in the past two years, but the crises continue to emerge among Santa Clarita Valley families, Davies said.
The entire community must remain involved to ensure attitudes toward domestic violence don’t fall back into complacency or indifference, Davies said.
“We must remember it’s not the victim’s fault.”
Signal/College of the Canyons
SCV Domestic Violence Summit
8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15
Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Valencia campus, College of the Canyons.
Event is free but attendees are requested to RSVP with their names, contact phone numbers and the two breakout sessions they would prefer to attend. Seating for the summit is limited.
RSVP via email to [email protected]. A confirmation email will be sent with more details and directions.
Breakfast and sandwiches will be provided.
Sponsored by: The Signal, College of the Canyons, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, county of Los Angeles, city of Santa Clarita, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Christy Smith for Assembly.