Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ann Burke

I'm sitting down with Ann Burke, mother of Lindsay Burke, who was killed in 2005 by a jealous boyfriend when she was only 23 years old. Ann is an educator and an activist and wants all of us to get smart about the issues of dating violence. She's also the founding member of MADE.

"You know, I have Masters in Health Education. I've been teaching kids for years. Shouldn't I have known about this? I didn't even recognize the signs in the beginning with Lindsay. Some things made me uncomfortable, but I didn't really see it for what it was." When Ann speaks, the pain of her loss sits with her, she carries it. But it's clear that she uses it to fuel her work.

"I believe the time to learn about this is before our kids get involved in these relationships. We lull ourselves into complacency, thinking 'I'm a good parent, we have a good home, I know what my kids are doing,' and this thinking sets us up and sets up our kids for experiences they're not prepared to deal with."

"After Lindsay's murder, I spent a whole year researching this topic. I was blown away by the statistics, by the methods abusers use, by how much I didn't know. So when I went back to work in my 8th grade class and I was teaching them about HIV, STDs, drugs, alcohol, I started to think, 'Why isn't dating violence education mandated?'"

That's when Ann set to work to do something about it. She got involved with Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch's office and partnered with him on enacting legislation, which has since been passed. Lindsay's Law now mandates dating violence education in the State of Rhode Island from grades 7 through 12.

"Lindsay's Law got passed in 2007," she says. "Several other states are stating that they support mandated education but have yet to pass laws. There are currently about 8 states with some kind legislation. But a lot of states lack the funding to train the teachers. In Rhode Island, we didn't ask for any funding--we offered volunteer teacher training and materials, but we're a small state. For other states that approach might be harder. But I'm of the mind that if you wait for the money, the laws will never get passed. I'd rather force the issue and make the states come up with the funding. This issue is too important to wait."

At the end of our 15 or so minutes together, I ask Ann if her activism brings her any satisfaction.

I see the tears sneak up as she tells me, "It doesn't bring back Lindsay, but it does bring some satisfaction, yes. I think we've done a lot to honor her memory. After her murder, I thought long and hard about what she would want me to do. I tried my best to think, if she had survived the attack, what would she have wanted to do? She had a degree in education, so working toward education just made sense to me, not just for her memory, but for everybody else. If she had survived, Lindsay would have been talking about it. I have no doubt."


Jessica Sanner - said...

I am going to spread the word on my Blog for people around the country to petition their state for Lindsay's Law. Thanks for being a voice.

Jessica Sanner
The Survivor' Voice Founder

Kate said...

Way to go, Meaghan. Very powerful. What a courageous, generous woman Ann is to share her story.

Stefania said...

Strong women, strong Moms!

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