Take time to grieve, then take action

Letter to the Editor

Dear members of our community,

We suffered a terrible loss this week with the murder of Officer Ken Copeland when he was notifying a citizen that he was being arrested on charges of family violence. This arrest would have led to hearings in court where he could have pled his case — a very civilized process. Instead he chose to open fire on a public servant and end his life.

I have worked for victims of family violence at the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center for decades. Every single day we hear of threats of violence of this same magnitude. Usually, the threats are directed against the victims of the abuse who are members of the perpetrator’s family. However, those of us who work in this field know the threat is much greater and the effect of this violence spreads like a cancer in our community. Police know that responding to a family violence call is one of the most dangerous aspects of their job. Before Monday, I don’t think they would have thought that serving an arrest warrant in the middle of the day with back-up would be so dangerous. Unfortunately, that innocence is lost.

So, what do we do? First, we need to grieve. The death in the line of duty of one of our San Marcos Police Officers is heartbreaking. We need to reaffirm the value of Ken Copeland’s life and acknowledge the impact this violence has on each of us. We need to stand together and comfort one another. We need to let our law enforcement officers know how much we value them and their commitment to doing the hard work of keeping us safe.

After we have had time to grieve and honor our fallen comrade, we need to define what level of violence we will tolerate in our community and put our collective minds and hearts to the task of decreasing the violence. I know we want someone else to do this hard work, but it honestly starts with each of us. The first step is to stop beating ourselves up – seriously.

About six years ago, the staff at HCWC had a full day workshop to learn more about self-compassion in hopes of promoting it with the victims of abuse who come to us for services. As we went through some of the learning exercises, it was apparent that we, ourselves, were not self-compassionate! This was a revelation to us since we saw ourselves as compassionate people. When we stopped to really listen, we found that our internal voices were constantly critical of ourselves.

We decided that we need to learn how to be self-compassionate ourselves before we could encourage others to practice self-compassion. We believe that if more people truly practiced self-compassion that not only would their lives be infinitely better, but there would be less violence in our world. Self-criticism spreads to criticism of others. Failure to control ourselves and our negative thoughts leads to efforts to control others. We blame others for our pain and this leads to violence. This website can give more information on self-compassion: http://selfcompassion.org. We can continue to actively learn about self-compassion together. A serious commitment to self-compassion will make us all stronger and better able to achieve our individual and our community potential.

As we work on reducing the violence we perpetrate on ourselves, we can join together to reduce the effect of violence committed by those who will not accept personal responsibility for their violent behavior. We have been coordinating our community efforts for years, but we can find ways to do this better, I’m sure. Technology can give us new ways to connect. Ken Copeland’s death can give us new resolve. We have more insight and more experience.

I hope you will be compassionate towards victims of abuse. They are often living in homes where violence has become normalized. They may be suffering from the terrible grief of the lost hopes and dreams for their family. At some time, they probably loved the person who is abusing them and, often, that love for them remains strong. They have to be very creative amidst all of these unknowns and conflicting emotions.

As we look back at some of the terrible events of the last year, we can see a common thread – family violence. The shooter at Sutherland Springs had been convicted of family violence. The man who opened fire on our Hays County Sheriff’s Office Deputies in Wimberley last month had a family violence conviction. Officer Ken Copeland was killed serving warrants for family violence. Violent individuals are violent with their family members and these victims are at extreme risk. We can work together to reduce that risk and take seriously the threat to our community.

So, today, take the time to grieve. Be kind to yourself. Engage in activities that make you healthy and strong. Share with others. You didn’t cause this tragedy to happen, but you are affected by it and being aware of your personal feelings is really vitally important. A tragedy such as this often brings up past trauma for each of us and renews our suppressed fears. Give yourself time to experience those feelings. nd know that you can look forward to 2018, when we will transform our grief into the power to change our community. Together.

Marla R. Johnson

Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center Executive Director

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666