Walk aims to give voice to victims of domestic violenceWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
This year will be the fifth time Robin Bowlin has walked in memory of her sister Tammy Bowlin-Macrae. On Aug. 25, 2007, Tammy’s boyfriend Lawrence Jameson shot Tammy as she was packing to leave him.
Lawrence is in prison for life as the fifth anniversary draws near. While he was on trial, Robin decided she needed to do something to give back to the Advocates for Victims and Justice Inc., the nonprofit that helped her family through the ordeal.
“When I was there, one day I was thinking I need to do something to keep Tammy’s memory alive and she was the sort of person who would want her story told,” Robin said.
So she organized Tammy’s Walk, which benefits the Advocates. The grant-and-donation funded nonprofit financially supports the Toledo-Lucas County Victim/Witness Assistance program, which provides support to people in Robin’s situation. The program also has a crisis response team in cases of domestic violence. Advocates also funds the Victim’s Forum, which visits area schools to prevent problems like bullying, sexting and teen-dating violence.
As the walk approaches, emotions hit Robin hard. “My biggest thing [is wondering], ‘Is she here with us?’ ” Robin said. “I’m just hoping she sees it all.”
Tammy, who died at 46, has three children and now four grandchildren. Her love of children will be incorporated into this year’s walk with bubbles and face-painting. The 2.5-mile walk begins at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 25 with registration an hour earlier at the Walbridge Park Gazebo on Broadway Street. The Bethany House will have a T-shirt display and the Northwest Ohio Silent Witness Project will present life-size silhouettes that tell the stories of domestic violence victims.
Although she wasn’t sure of the total, Robin said the walk has raised thousands of dollars for Advocates. It is free to walk, but donations are accepted and T-shirts are for sale. There are also more than 40 sponsors this year.
The funds will go toward the teen-dating violence prevention program of the Victim’s Forum. The program is directed at sixth-12th graders, said Lynn Carder, executive director of the Toledo-Lucas County Victim/Witness Assistance and coordinator of the forum. Last school year, the teen-dating program reached more than 5,000 area students.
Because of Ohio House Bill 19, a dating violence program is required in public schools so the program has been in high demand.
The forum has been around since 1996 and the teen-dating program was added about four years ago.
“A lot of kids, because they are exposed to so much [violence], they kind of get desensitized,” Carder said.
The teen-dating program starts with a video. Then the instructor profiles warning signs like restricting a partner’s activities, constantly calling/texting or one partner making all the decisions.
In Tammy’s case, Robin said that while there wasn’t physical abuse before, Lawrence had threatened her younger sister and tried to control her.
“He’s a coward. I don’t think he had a lot of friends and the one thing he had control over was her,” Robin said.
The program also details how to safely get out of a relationship and how to help a friend who is being abused or even abusing someone. A third of children know someone who is abused, Carder said.
“It’s a very real problem and it doesn’t necessarily come from poor neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, white neighborhoods or rich neighborhoods. It can affect anybody … gay or straight,” Carder said, adding that there can also be verbal, emotional or sexual abuse in addition to physical. She said that boys and girls have asked for help in getting protection orders after the program.
For Robin, helping people get the courage to leave their abusers is the most important part. One woman said that without Tammy’s Walk, “ ‘I wouldn’t be here today,’ … that just amazed me,” Robin said.
It’s essential for people to offer help to those being abused, Robin added.
“You don’t sweep it under the carpet. You need to help them go through it. Let them know about people who will help them,” she said.
Despite the people she has helped and the money she’s raised, Robin said she would never forget or forgive the murder of her “beautiful” sister, the baby in a family of eight siblings.
Carder said, “When you have people who have been the victim of murder, there is never really closure and to die at the hand of a partner is horrific.”
After all, Tammy was one of Robin’s best friends.
“[Tammy] was vibrant. She was fun-loving … the smile on her face. There was something about Tammy; if you met her, you wouldn’t forget it,” Robin said. “That sadness is always there, deep in my heart every day.”
For more information on the Victim’s Forum or to book the program, call (419) 213-6884.
Tags: Advocates for Victims and Justice Inc., Bethany House, Brigitta Burks, Lawrence Jameson, Northwest Ohio Silent Witness Project, Ohio House Bill 19, Robin Bowlin, Tammy Bowlin-Macrae, Tammy's Walk, Toledo-Lucas County Victim/Witness Assistance program, Victim’s Forum