Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month Opens with Tragedy
In 2011, President Obama signed a proclamation designating February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. In it, President Obama writes, “Though many communities face the problem of teen dating violence, young people can be afraid to discuss it, or they may not recognize the severity of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.” Sadly, we here at JANE know just how true this is for young people in Alameda County. But even with this knowledge, we were still stunned and heartbroken when we heard news reports this morning about the murder of San Leandro High School freshman, Myrna Umanzor. On Friday evening, Myrna was stabbed multiple times by 19 year old Henry Leon, the father of their 9 month old daughter. Myrna subsequently died of her injuries – she was just 15 years old. Henry’s body was later found hanging near the Port of Oakland in an apparent suicide.
Various online news articles are referring to this incident as a “murder-suicide” and prior to his death, some community members voiced their opinion that Mr. Leon should receive the death penalty or serve a lifetime prison sentence without parole. But we JANE Warriors wonder if that’s the answer. Does arresting perpetrators of violence increase people’s safety? Does it eliminate domestic violence in our communities? And does it recognize that perpetrators might need support and strength to change their behaviors?
Regardless of the answers to those questions, JANE wants to remind everyone that two families are suffering today and mourning the loss of loved ones. And one baby girl is going to grow up with the knowledge that her father killed her mother and then killed himself. This alone should be enough to explain why teen dating violence awareness and prevention efforts are so important in communities across America. But it shouldn’t take a loss of life to make things happen and it’s clear that proclaiming February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is just the tip of a very large iceberg. So JANE challenges you to think of ways you can spark discussions around dating violence in your neighborhood, at school, or in your workplace. In honor of the Umanzor and Leon families, let’s make 2012 a year of better, more effective prevention efforts.
Sending peace, light, and love to the families of these young people and to anyone affected by partner violence.