10th annual Light Up the Night raises domestic violence awareness

Empty Place at the Table Display with victims that attended or graduated from UCF. Light Up the Night UCF Oct 1, 2017. Photo by Elisa Ramirez.

Orlando resident Sade Dixon was shot and killed in her parent’s front yard by her ex-boyfriend last December.

Sade Dixon’s mother, Stephanie Dixon-Daniels, spoke about her daughter’s death at UCF’s 10th annual Light Up the Night, an event that raises awareness about domestic violence and honors its victims.

About 30 people gathered in the Pegasus Ballroom in the Student Union to attend the Oct. 2 event, which was hosted by Christine Mouton, director of UCF Victim Services, an advocacy and support organization available to UCF students.

“I noticed the signs, the depression. I thought it was just postpartum blues,” Dixon-Daniels said.

Dixon was pregnant when she was shot, according to an autopsy report from the District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office.

Dixon-Daniels told her daughter’s life story. Her 24-year-old daughter was a good student who loved to travel, she said. She had high expectations of life and wanted to live the “champagne life,” Dixon-Daniels said.

“And then she met the monster, whose name we will not say,” Dixon-Daniels said.

She saw her daughter’s Facebook conversations and realized she met Markeith Loyd, 24, whom Dixon-Daniels referred to”the monster,” through social media, Dixon-Daniels said.

“And then he started to isolate her from her family, from her boys [Dixon’s children],” Dixon-Daniels said. “I would text her ‘When are you coming home? Why can’t you come home?’ — not knowing the signs of domestic violence, not knowing how she felt inside, but she always kept these things hidden from us.”

Loyd was charged with one count of first-degree murder for Dixon’s death, and one count each of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, carjacking with a firearm, aggravated assault and possession of a bulletproof vest, according to a January Orange County affidavit filed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Benetta Wholuba, a psychologist at UCF and speaker at the event, defined intimate partner violence as physical and sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression that includes coercive acts by a current or former intimate partner.

Putting down a partner in front of others, preoccupation with a partner’s bad mood and isolating a partner from friends and family are warning signs of an abusive relationship, Wholuba said.

“On Dec. 11, she [Dixon] chose to walk away from the life of being isolated,” Dixon-Daniels said.

Dixon broke up with her boyfriend and moved back in with her parents, then her ex-boyfriend took her life two days later, Dixon-Daniels said.

Tekoa Pouerie, chief development officer for Harbor House of Central Florida, a domestic violence shelter, was one of nine speakers at the event. Pouerie offered resources for individuals affected by domestic violence.

“The most dangerous time for an individual that is in a domestic-violent relationship is when they decide to leave, and we do not want them to do that by themselves,” Pouerie said.

Pouerie encouraged the audience to download the R3 app, a domestic violence screening tool created by Harbor House in 2011.

The app asks four questions to assess if a person is a victim of abuse, and a high score will alert a professional to offer help and make a referral, according to the apps’ description.

When helping someone in an abusive relationship, listen non-judgmentally, empower the victim and connect them to resources such as UCF’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which provides confidential counseling, Wholuba said.

Light Up the Night also included a memorial event titled “An Empty Place at the Table,” which displayed nine photographs and table settings to remember nine UCF students who died from, or from intervening, intimate partner violence over the past 25 years.

The event concluded with a visual representation of the song “Til it Happens to You” by Lady Gaga. UCF students Gianna Doxey, Lauren Rosengarten, Kaylee Boghos, Kimberly Faith Santos, Dylan Rivers and Anthony Valez performed the song through interpretive dance.

Several organizations such as the UCF Police Department, Planned Parenthood and Harbor House set up tables at the event and provided informational pamphlets, emergency whistles and more.

For those seeking help with intimate partner violence, contact Harbor House at 407-886-2856, CAPS at 407-823-2811 or UCF Victim Services at 407-823-2425 for crisis hotlines, counseling and additional resources.

Full disclosure: Gianna Doxey is a writer for the Focus.