As part of my ongoing 40th birthday celebration, I eagerly attended bingo night at Duchesne Academy with a darling friend, let’s call her Young M.C., enrolled in first grade at the girls’ school on the bayou. I had been looking forward to it since last year when our plans to attend fell through. I do love bingo.
We had to park on the 4th floor of the garage, and noted as we walked to the elevator that one of the reserved parking spaces had a little pile of cellophane-wrapped flowers and a stuffed animal in a sad little mound in the middle. I commented to my pal’s dad that it looked like a roadside memorial.
We pushed ahead to get good seats in the gym with the rest of the first grade families.
On the wall, behind the buffet tables laden with our hot dog feast, hung a butcher paper banner with a dedication in hot pink paint: “For Loréal Castro.”
I assumed that it was put up for her birthday. At a nearby private school I’d attended as a child, parents erected handmade signs along the entry for their kids’ birthdays. About midway through the evening, Young M.C.’s father explained the banner’s much more tragic provenance.
A senior who had just received a college scholarship, Loréal was sitting in a truck with a friend outside a party when a gunman shot and killed her, injuring her companion. According to an early news report:
Police say they have no suspects, no witnesses and no motive for this shooting. There was apparently a fight inside the house between another teen and her ex-boyfriend, who threatened to “come back and shoot up the place.” However, it’s still unclear whether that’s the same person responsible for killing Castro.
The killer was arrested and charged with her murder. He may not have even known that people were in the truck, or, one could speculate, he thought his ex-girlfriend was inside.
The exact details aren’t really important in light of the result. An angry ex-boyfriend threatened to come back with a gun, then followed through, and a girl just 17 years old was killed. Dead.
That’s a photo I lifted from Loréal’s Facebook tribute page. How awful to imagine someone that young, exuberant, and clearly at the start of an incredible life journey dead in the back of a pick-up truck.
Ed Schipul wrote that as a parent, he would rather see “more breasts and less violence” on television. His larger point? That we should have more depictions of healthy relationships and healthy sexuality and far fewer displays of violent murders with sexual undertones on TV. I made fun of him for the way he made it, but I believe that he’s got a good point—children turn on television and see this awful stuff, these portrayals of brutal, sexually charged murders on shows like Law & Order and CSI, and we know they watch. Why are we so afraid, then, to allow TV to broadcast depictions of healthy bodies and healthy sexuality?
Sadly, for our kids, art is often the mirror of culture, and our culture is saturated with real violence. Violence that gets kids killed by other kids carrying guns and grudges.
The girls in Loréal’s class walk past her parking spot at least twice a day. They’ve all seen the deadly consequence of teen dating violence. I’m quite sure the school brought in counselors, and can tell from the online tributes that they think about her still.
You can bet, though, that there’s not going to be a prime time show about how teens should handle violence in their relationships, unless it is a true crime report after the fact, or a sexed-up drama like CSI. So, it is up to all of us to make sure someone is helping teens talk about this in a healthy, helpful way.
Young M.C.’s mom of course groaned when I said that seeing the parking lot memorial and the banner in the gym made me think that the school needed to field a team to participate in the Houston Area Women’s Center’s Race Against Violence, but honestly, I had that thought almost right away.
Young girls and boys race for a cure for breast cancer and heart disease when they are young, and highly unlikely to actually have cancer or a heart attack, although clearly not too young to be affected by the diseases. But we almost never talk to them about the things that can hurt them right now, when they are still kids, like dating violence, stalking, sexual abuse, and the difference between healthy and unhealthy sexuality.
So, I’d love to see a team from Loréal’s school walk in her memory. I think it would be an amazing and cathartic experience for them, and a great educational opportunity.
I’d love for concerned parents like Ed Schipul to gather their parent-friends and kids to walk for awareness, to walk as a way to show their kids that there are people and places anyone can go if they have questions or need help.
Kids get it. They’ve been told hitting is wrong. You can explain to a five-year-old that the Women’s Center is opposed to people being mean and hitting and hurting each other without going into the details of rape and domestic violence. And you can explain things in greater detail to a 12- or 14- or 17-year-old who has no doubt already been grossed out but strangely enthralled by fictive violence on CSI. The Women’s Center has counselors who can help you do the talking, or even give a presentation to a class, school, girl or boy scout troop, or Sunday school class.
I hope some of you will join me in Walking the Walk for HAWC. Walk for Loréal, for her family, and for her classmates. Walk for your own children, and their friends. Walk with all of us who are working each day, in many ways, to end domestic and sexual violence.