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Local

Safe Passage Inc. hosts annual 'Holding Hope' vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness month

Safe Passage Inc. hosts annual 'Holding Hope' vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness month

People hold candles Monday in support of those who have suffered domestic violence, during Safe Passage's annual "Holding Hope" Domestic Violence Vigil at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.
People hold candles Monday in support of those who have suffered domestic violence, during Safe Passage's annual "Holding Hope" Domestic Violence Vigil at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Kashia Hollinshead said that when she thinks of her slain older sister, Stacia Hollinshead, she pictures her lying face down in a pool of her own blood after being shot 15 times in a horrific act of domestic violence.

Kashia spoke during Safe Passage Inc.’s annual Holding Hope vigil as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month because she wants to share her sister’s story in the hope that future slayings might be prevented. DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato described Stacia Hollinshead, 30, as a promising prosecutor.

Amato recounted his colleague’s March 23 death in Dodge County, Wisconsin. Police say that Hollinshead was taking her 6-year-old daughter to visit grandparents when her ex-husband, Ulisses W. Medina Espinosa, surprised them at his parents’ housing, shooting Stacia to death on the kitchen floor.

“I think we want to make an excuse for a good person gone wrong because we don’t want to believe that monsters live among us, sometimes in sheep’s clothing,” Kashia Hollinshead said. “Did he just snap? No. He constructed a plan to murder my sister in cold blood. A plan that even included buying gifts for my niece in an effort to distract her as he stood just feet away and shot her mom to death.”

Amato described the phone call he received from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on March 23 and said the sergeant who delivered the news cried on the phone.

“He was weeping on the phone, and I’m trying to process what he told me,” Amato said. “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to think, and it’s a feeling I still get when I talk about or think about Stacia.”

Kashia was one of many women who stepped forward Monday night as part of the vigil, sharing stories on behalf of friends who’ve been victims of abuse, or their own tales of surviving at the hands of a violent partner, family member or person. An art showcase called “Holding Hope” displayed survivors’ hands with words such as “blame,” “love” or “hope.”

“So often in our lives we have both things we want to shed and things we want to keep,” Mary Ellen Schaid, executive director of Safe Passage, said of the artwork. “Survivors and advocates used their own hands to symbolize what it is they want to hold onto and what it is they want to let go of.”

Safe Passage Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides anonymous shelter, support, counseling and other advocacy resources for those who’ve been harmed by domestic and sexual violence.

In October 2018, the organization began a partnership with area law enforcement agencies called the Lethality Assessment Program, which offers an 11-question screening for police to use on the scene of a domestic dispute to assess the level of danger a victim may be in. Officers then present the person with the opportunity to call Safe Passage’s 24/7 crisis hotline on the scene.

To date, 130 calls have been made where the person is at high risk of being stalked, strangled or injured with a high-powered weapon, staff said.

Amato said he’s been coming to Safe Passage vigils for more than 15 years and has a new perspective on them.

“Coming to the vigils, I always left with a feeling of strength, but also with the knowledge that it could happen,” Amato said. “After March 23, 2019, I know it happens everywhere. No socio-economic area is protected, no race. It doesn’t discriminate. And it’s our problem. Not any one person can fight this alone.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, contact the Safe Passage Crisis Hotline at 815-756-5228. Operators are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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