Local vigil honors domestic violence victim Karina Castro

CORA+organizes+a+remembrance+service+for+Karina+Castro+to+unite+the+community+against+domestic+violence.+The+setup+follows+a+purple+theme+due+to+the+color+representing+domestic+violence+awareness.

Zara Hai

CORA organizes a remembrance service for Karina Castro to unite the community against domestic violence. The setup follows a purple theme due to the color representing domestic violence awareness.

*Content Warning: This article includes mentions of graphic violence and domestic abuse.  

Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA), a non-profit organization based in San Mateo dedicated to helping individuals affected by domestic violence, held a candlelit vigil in remembrance of Karina Castro on Sept. 30.

Castro was allegedly beheaded last month by suspect Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta, whom she had filed a restraining order against. CORA sought to honor Castro’s life with the event last Friday.

“We honor those that pass. There are many, but today we honor Karina,” said Socorro Salazar, a CORA staff member.

According to CORA statistics, Castro’s story of domestic abuse is not improbable. Locally, intimate partner abuse affects one in four women and one in seven men in San Mateo County, along with more than 11,000 calls made to CORA victims per year.

“One of the first things for me, when we hear there’s a death, is that I want to know that person’s name,” said CORA’s Chief Executive Officer Karen Ferguson. “I want to know [their name] so that we can … keep that person right front of us, so that [the community] heals, instead of saying, ‘Alright, what’s the next thing?’” 

Ferguson noted that when a domestic violence-related death occurs, CORA’s first actions involve reaching out and connecting with the community as they grieve and learn to heal. She also said that a major priority is taking care of their staff and supporting them through tragic times like these.

“I often think of the ones that came into my safe house, but also how many of them didn’t make it in,” said Yajaira Morales, a CORA staff member. “[It’s hard] realizing that she was one of them that didn’t make it.”

During the vigil, several attendees wiped tears from their faces as a community member shared a poem they wrote about victims of abuse. One attendee, Captain Matt Lethin of the San Mateo County Police Department, expressed his gratitude for CORA’s role in helping the community come together and highlighted the importance of their work. 

“We take [domestic violence] extremely seriously… It is a crime that’s often hidden, so victims suffer in silence,” Lethin said. 

He not only talked about the police department supporting victims but also about reaching out to the perpetrators. 

“We’re going to hold [the perpetrators] accountable and bring them to justice, but they’re a part of the community, and we really want to change that approach and connect with them however we can so they can make different choices in the future,” Lethin said.

In a country where more than five million children witness domestic abuse each year, statistics from the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence show that about 23% of women and 13% of men endure a physical attack by an intimate partner at some point during their lives. CORA experts have noticed this trend and found that experiences of abuse at a young age are a leading cause of domestic violence, rather than anger, stress, or substance abuse. 

Ultimately, the community recognized CORA’s effort to bring awareness to the issue of domestic abuse and violence.

Attendees of the vigil said they were “touched by Karina’s story” and they agree that “it’s important to show support and spread awareness about domestic violence.”

Part of CORA’s mission is educating the community on how to help someone experiencing domestic abuse. According to CORA, respecting someone’s “right to privacy and right to refuse help,” along with supporting them and motivating them to get help on their own, are important parts of supporting a victim of domestic violence. 

For youth affected by domestic violence, Morales described several resources available for adolescents, including the Youth Engagement and Advocacy program. YEA advocates provide students with confidential counseling about abusive relationships. 

CORA, along with many other domestic violence organizations, is helping victims, helping their families, and helping the community mend from trauma caused by abuse. 

Ferguson said, “Can a community heal versus just move on? We don’t want people to move on. We want people to heal.”

Resources:

CORA 24-hour Hotline – 800-300-1080

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233