ELKO – The most egregious domestic violence relationships end only after tragedy.
Such was the case with Stephanie Gonzalez, who police say was strangled by her estranged husband, Eduardo Estrada, in 2011 with two of their children in the home.
The tragedy spurred Gonzalez’s mother, Lidia Cortes, to become a community advocate, fighting back against violence in the home. The strongest weapon is prevention, she said. And prevention through education is a goal of a PACE Coalition-affiliated Hispanic working group. Cortes is the chairwoman of the group, which partnered in a seminar last weekend.
“It’s been something I wanted to do for a long, long time,” she said.
Emiliano Diaz de Leon, a men’s engagement specialist at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, delivered the keynote address.
Cortes met de Leon the day before the event, she said. He told her that he grew up with violence in the home. As he grew, the cycle continued. His website states de Leon “became a perpetrator of teen dating violence.”
It wasn’t until he found a program offered at his high school that he changed his life. Now he, like Cortes, has devoted himself to helping others.
Cortes was touched by de Leon’s story.
“Tears just started flowing,” she said.
She said it’s important to teach children that violence isn’t found in a healthy family.
“We need to get it started with little kids,” Cortes said.
The event included a performance by the Elko Mexican Ballet Folklorico and a panel discussion. It was co-sponsored by PACE Coalition, Barrick Gold Corp. and the White Ribbon Campaign – an international movement committed to curbing gender-based violence. Ilusiones Magazine and Communities in Schools were also sponsors.
Elko Police Chief Ben Reed, a panelist at the event, said domestic violence is an ongoing concern for his department, which investigated 211 calls last year related to that crime. By comparison, city police made 141 drug busts in 2014, according to a crime report.
Reed commended those involved for organizing an excellent discussion.
“I’m very pleased, as the police chief, to see the public discussion unfold regarding domestic violence,” he said. “I’m glad to see the Hispanic Working Group and PACE Coalition and Barrick and White Ribbon all come together to sponsor a community event like this to try to educate and prevent.”
PACE Executive Director Cathy McAdoo said close to 100 people attended.
“It was amazing,” she said. “That’s a remarkable number for a Saturday afternoon.”
PACE strives to promote healthy family living.
“It works the best to have the whole family engaged, to have respect and honor among everyone in the family,” McAdoo said.
Cortes said the 10-person working group, which currently has two vacancies, meets monthly. She hopes to organize another community discussion that will include input from the legal community as well as the Committee Against Domestic Violence.
“We don’t want another tragedy,” she said.
Cortes believes Estrada killed her daughter because Gonzalez had been abused and she wanted to end their relationship.
After the slaying, Estrada fled town.
In October, after a three-year manhunt, Mexican authorities captured him. Reed said Estrada is being held in federal custody in Mexico City while the extradition process, which has to go through the U.S. Attorney’s Office, continues.