HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – State lawmakers read the names slowly and somberly.
“Susan Hoke,” said Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland/York), one of five names she read to the crowd in the Capitol Rotunda.
In all, legislators read 92 names, each killed in domestic violence in Pennsylvania last year.
Each of the names made up a piece of a puzzle that were placed on a map of the state.
But they aren’t just names on a map. They all had hopes and dreams and families.
Families that are now suffering.
“Her on again, off again boyfriend of 11 months beat and strangled her in her dorm room,” Jeanette Hall said of her daughter Karlie, who was an 18-year-old freshman at Millersville University when a boyfriend from home came to campus and killed her.
“I cry every day. It’s completely changed the course of our lives,” Jeanette said of the February 8, 2015 murder. She says she has not been able to return to work full-time since Karlie’s killing.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence holds the commemoration ceremony every year. Its goal is to reduce the number of fatality victims to zero. It won’t be easy. One in four women and one in seven men will be victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault.
PCADV is also pushing House Bill 1581, which has passed the House and out of a Senate committee but needs a final vote in the Senate. The bill would make strangulation a separate and distinct crime, which it currently is not in Pennsylvania. If an abuser chokes but doesn’t kill a victim, the courts are hamstrung.
“It makes it really hard for prosecutors and law enforcement to collect evidence in the right way, and to win cases, and hold people accountable,” said Peg Dierkers, executive director of PCADV.
Dierkers says choking and strangling are popular among abusers, like Karlie’s killer who is convicted and serving 40 years.
Her mother got a life sentence.
Jeanette was blindsided by domestic violence among teens. She was unaware it was happening to her vibrant 18-year old daughter even though statistically it happens a lot, according to experts.
Jeanette warns parents to pay close attention to their kids’ relationships. She remembers welcoming Karlie’s killer into her home, buying his favorite drinks and snacks. She said she was in shock when the police came to tell her what happened.
“On the outside, he was a clean-cut, polite, high school athlete,” she said. “I have come to learn that abusers are manipulative and can fool the best of us.”