From YWCA Clark County’s CEO, Brittini Lasseigne:
To the families of Meshay Melendez and Layla Stewart – I offer YWCA’s deepest sympathies. Meshay and Layla deserve to be honored. YWCA Clark County is committed to honoring their lives through real and immediate changes we can make to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again. We stand with you in your outrage and heartbreak, and will work to hold the systems that failed your loved ones accountable. We share your anger over the unanswered questions surrounding Warren’s arrest and release after his earlier attempt to harm Meshay:
- Why was Warren’s bail so low for the drive-by shooting charges considering his existing murder charge in Arkansas and the extreme risk he posed?
- Why was Warren released after he violated the protection order by calling Meshay from the county jail only hours after the protection order was placed?
- Why was Warren not issued an ankle monitor before Meshay and Layla went missing? The Tiffany Hill Act allows (but does not mandate) judges to order accused abusers to wear GPS ankle devices monitored by officials and linked to an app on survivor’s phones, alerting the survivor if their abuser gets too close. Tiffany Hill was also a Vancouver mother killed by her abuser after violating a protection order.
To our loyal supporters and the public – Deadly violence is not happening to others, it is happening to us. Everyone in a community is affected when parts of it are harmed. We must use our collective voices to make lasting change. Here are some of the ways we move forward as a community to help survivors, impacted families, and their allies:
- Domestic Violence Services are Always Free and Confidential. Anyone can reach out to YWCA for assistance if they are in danger, need support, or are worried about a friend or family member who may be experiencing domestic violence. Share the following resources:
- YWCA’s 24-hr SafeChoice Domestic and Sexual Violence hotline: 1-800-695-0167
- National 24-hr Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Friends & Family Guide (WSCADV): https://wscadv.org/resources/friends-family-guide/
- What We Know: In the last four months, two women and two children have died from domestic violence in Clark County, including the deaths of Meshay and Layla, and a six-month old baby. These incidences of domestic violence also include the permanent paralysis of another survivor and the suicide of two perpetrators – marking six total deaths related to domestic violence.
- History of strangulation and access to firearms exponentially increases the risk of homicide.
- Survivors are continuously asked to prove they are credible enough, particularly through the legal system.
- Violence does not stop with physical separation. Abusers stalk, harass, financially manipulate, and intimidate their victims in a myriad of ways to sustain their control and/or fear over them.
- Violence is almost always extended to children.
- Call To Action: It’s clear that there are systemic injustices in our courts that fail survivors of domestic violence. Our system’s fundamental belief that everyone is innocent until proven guilty is in direct opposition to the credibility survivors deserve when they tell their stories of abuse. It seems that there is a spectrum of abuse survivors ought to be put through for them to be worthy of being believed and protected. For abusers, there seems to be a spectrum of violence they are allowed to inflict on their survivors before authorities hold them accountable – this has to stop.
Vigil: Please join us at Esther Short Park on Sunday, March 26th at 11:00 am (605 Esther St., Vancouver, WA) to honor Meshay and Layla. In a show of support for their grieving family, YWCA, along with National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation (NWCAVE), State Representative Sharon Wylie, and Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle will come together to provide space for the community to process this devastating loss. For updates, please check our social media here.
- Support: YWCA has the utmost respect for the people impacted by this horrendous violence and also understands the community’s desire to assist. It is times like these that our organization sees an uptick in calls from survivors requesting services and safety, and from the community asking what they can do to help. It is no surprise that our greatest need is to support YWCA’s domestic violence program and shelters and our advocacy efforts. NWCAVE has also established a Memorial Fund for Meshay and Layla. We provide these links only as way for the community to express their grief and support:
- Advocate: The Senate’s proposed operating budget fails to fully fund domestic and sexual violence programs. Underfunding these programs would mean YWCA would lose funding for two domestic violence advocates. DV advocates are specially trained to work directly with survivors, providing them with tools to change their lives and heal. In order to prevent another tragedy, we need to fund more of these lifesaving positions, not less. Before March 27th, contact the deciding Senators to lend your voice to this important funding issue now.
CEO, YWCA Clark County