Published on November 15, 2013
Juliane Hibbs’ family hold candles during a vigil in memory of her and her fiancé Vince Dillon Friday night at the Conception Bay South town hall. From left, are brother Christopher, father Philip, mother Debbie and sister Ashley. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Published on November 15, 2013
Hundreds of people attend the vigil in memory of Juliane Hibbs and Vince Dillon Friday night in Conception Bay South. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Published on November 19, 2013
The choir Coastal Sounds provided some inspirational music for the vigil in memory of Juliane Hibbs and Vince Dillon.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Mother urges audience to combat domestic violence
Debbie Hibbs stood in front of a crowd of hundreds and asked them to join the fight against domestic violence.
“How do you come to terms with the reality that your daughter’s life was taken at the hands of an abusive man in a horrific act of relationship violence?” asked Hibbs, the mother of Juliane Hibbs, shot to death Oct. 15 with fiancé Vince Dillon by Brian Dawe in Conception Bay South.
Hibbs, speaking at a vigil, organized by her family, Friday night in front of the C.B.S. town hall — within sight of Villa Nova Plaza, where her daughter and Dillon were gunned down — said her daughter lived in fear for 15 years, controlled and abused by Dawe.
“I am here tonight to ask each and every one of you to help me in the fight against domestic violence,” said Hibbs, surrounded by husband Philip, daughter Ashley and son Christopher, with the hall’s wheelchair ramp doubling as a makeshift podium. “Our daughter’s life was important. Your children’s lives are important.”
Hibbs said the law was powerless to help her daughter, because Dawe’s abuse and control happened in private. “Our daughter’s freedom was taken away, yet Brian Dawe committed no crime. Juliane lived under threat for 15 years, yet Brian Dawe committed no crime,” she said. It was only when Dawe took her and Dillon’s lives that Dawe became a criminal, she said — after it was too late.
“The law does not act to prevent crime,” she said. “The law only acts after it has happened. The law is supposed to protect us, but the law — in this situation — only protected the criminal.”
The 45-minute vigil brought together speakers urging people to watch for the warning signs of domestic violence and to denounce people who treat women as property, and C.B.S. choir Coastal Sounds sang songs of peace and love.
Denise Sargeant, a marriage and family therapist with the Family Life Bureau who has been counselling the Hibbs family, read a poem of remembrance.
Connie Pike, representing the Coalition Against Violence Avalon East, told the crowd that most abused women are hit for the first time when they’re in the second trimester of their first pregnancy.
“Most women are hit 35 times before they report to the police,” she said. “Most women never report to the police. There are women living in fear every single day. You don’t hear about them on the news. They may go to their doctor, they may go to a counsellor, they may speak to a friend or a relative. They may call a crisis line. They may visit a shelter. Very few go to the police. But if you add it up, all of the places that women seek out help, there are hundreds and hundreds every day who need our help.”
That help must be non-judgmental, said Pike, who noted that it’s difficult for someone who has not suffered abuse to understand how difficult it can be for someone to leave an abusive relationship, and in Canada, about 140 women die each year at the hands of her partner or ex-partner.
“We have to stop judging. We have to stop blaming victims, and we have to stop making victims responsible for their own safety,” Pike said. “In 38 years that I have been doing anti-violence work, the most frequently heard question that I’ve had posed to me is ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ People say it like it’s something simple for a victim to do. You’re talking about a person who is in a relationship and she has no power. That’s the whole point. The abuser has all the power; she has none. She’s generally not permitted to make any decisions, she has no access to money, sometimes no access to any communication. And we judge them because they stay.”
Leslie MacLeod, executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council, decried what she called a societal culture of violence.
“Some of us woke up that morning to hear about the tragedy that had unfolded here — those of us who work with women who survive violence and experience violence on a regular basis felt that we could write the script. We didn’t know her name. We didn’t know that we already knew her. But we knew that the roots of this violence were in the control that Connie has been talking about.”
By paying attention and working together, change can be made, she said.
“By listening to the people around us, by understanding the dynamics of the violence that is in our communities and in our homes, and learning as much as we can about it, we can begin to see the signs of those who are being victimized, and we can begin to see and understand the signs of those who are controlling others,” she said. “The only way we’re going to end this violence is by not asking why didn’t she leave — it’s very well documented why women don’t leave. They generally can’t. We have to ask the question, why did he start, and why doesn’t he stop?”
Paradise resident Shirley Gosse said she came to the vigil to support the family. “It’s a difficult tragedy. The loss — you never get over the loss,” she said. “I lost my husband four years ago, but it was different circumstances — to cancer. The loss is every day of your life. It’s terrible. And many women go through this, who cannot escape — they’re in a situation, it’s a tragedy, and we’re here to support the Hibbs family and all the other women who are living underneath the same circumstances.”
Len Hillier of C.B.S. said his daughter is about the same age as Juliane Hibbs. “We just thought we’d come out and support the family,” he said. “The last few weeks here, it’s been unbelievable. There’s so much going on — it’s hard to take, listening to these parents on the radio the other day. It tears your heart out.”
After Hibbs finished speaking — her grief and anger making it increasingly difficult to get the words out as she thanked the crowd for their support — people raised the candles, wax and electric, that had been passed out before the vigil began, and then broke out in scattered applause as Hibbs and her family walked back down the ramp.
“Now you know, ladies and gentlemen,” Pike told the crowd in closing, “what courage looks like.”