Statement Regarding the Domestic Violence Homicide of Vicky Sonevong
Saturday, March 03, 2018
By Deborah DeBare, Vanessa Volz, and Channavy Chhay
We are devastated by the domestic violence murder of Vicky Sonevong, who was fatally shot by her boyfriend, Steve Soundara, on Thursday in the Providence apartment where Vicky lived with their 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. Soundara then fatally shot himself. We extend our deepest condolences to all who have been impacted by this heinous crime, the first domestic violence homicide of 2018.
Domestic violence murder is rarely an isolated incident, but is often the final act in a pattern of abuse that has escalated over time. Certain factors indicate an increased risk for domestic homicide; for example, when a firearm is present in a domestic violence situation, the risk of homicide for women is five times greater than when a firearm is not present.1 This tragedy is a stark reminder of why we must continue to advocate for common sense gun safety measures, including the firearms safety bills that have been introduced at the Rhode Island General Assembly this legislative session. We urge our elected officials to take critical action to save lives.
We are particularly distressed to learn that Vicky’s two young children were in the direct vicinity of the apartment when the murder-suicide occurred. No child should ever have to experience the loss of their mother to such a tragedy or endure the suffering caused by violence in the home. Now, as a result of this trauma, Vicky’s children may continue to experience a range of severe negative effects lasting well into adulthood.
Let us be sure to call murder-suicides what they are: the ultimate act of domestic violence. According to media reports, Soundara allegedly physically abused Vicky over the course of many years and repeatedly threatened to take her life. Vicky and Soundara were also often estranged, and we know that ending an abusive relationship can be one of the most dangerous times for a victim. When a victim attempts to separate from the abuser, there is a higher risk of escalating violence and homicide as the abuser tries to retain power and control over the situation.
Domestic violence occurs every day, in every Rhode Island city and town, and because we cannot hold the batterer accountable in domestic violence murder-suicide cases, we must hold ourselves accountable as a community.
We each have a role in naming domestic violence, knowing the warning signs, supporting those impacted by abuse, and finding ways to safely intervene. Rhode Island must continue to strengthen the response to domestic violence, to ensure that no more lives are lost and that no more children experience the tragedy of losing their beloved mother.
We cannot be silent. Each and every one of us must say “NO MORE”—because 1 in 4 Rhode Islanders is a victim of abuse. They are our loved ones, neighbors, coworkers, and friends, and they are counting on us.
The authors are Deborah DeBare, Executive Director, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Vanessa Volz, Executive Director, Sojourner House; and Channavy Chhay, Executive Director, Center for Southeast Asians.
How You Can Help:
If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, or if you are looking for resources for a child who has witnessed domestic violence, call the Rhode Island statewide Helpline for 24-hour support at 800-494-8100.
As relatives, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, we can help keep victims and their children safe and prevent another tragedy. Calling 911 if you suspect or witness abuse is an important step to take, but there are many other ways to help.
If you know or suspect that someone in your life is a victim of domestic violence, you can help that person stay safe. Listen, and express your concerns without judgment. Ask the person what you can do for them, and check in consistently. Help the person create a plan that will keep them safe when abuse occurs, and connect them with local resources, such as the Helpline (800-494-8100). Additional resources and information can be found at www.ricadv.org.
About the RICADV:
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) is an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. The RICADV was formed in 1979 to support and assist the domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island. The organization provides leadership to its member agencies, strives to create justice for victims, and raises awareness on the issue of domestic violence in Rhode Island. The RICADV's network of member agencies provide a wide array of services for victims, including emergency shelter, support groups, counseling services, and assistance with the legal system. For more information about these organizations and services, call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100.
About the Center for Southeast Asians (CSEA):
The mission of the Center for Southeast Asians (CSEA) is to promote the prosperity, heritage, and leadership of Southeast Asians in Rhode Island. An Affiliate Member of the RICADV, CSEA is the only organization comprehensively serving the needs of approximately 20,000 Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees living in Rhode Island.
Since 1991, CSEA’s Victims Assistance Program has been active in designating victims of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence as priority crime populations. Through the program, the agency educates the Southeast Asian community about the legal and emotional consequences of these crimes and the services available victims. Comprehensive and individualized direct services are available to meet clients’ immediate needs, guiding them in their transformation in becoming survivors. For more information, visit www.cseari.org.
About Sojourner House:
Sojourner House is a comprehensive domestic violence and sexual assault agency. Sojourner House's mission is to promote healthy relationships by providing culturally sensitive support, advocacy, and education for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence; and to effect systems change. Sojourner House is a member of the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence and provides safe shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, the Providence metro area’s only drop-in advocacy and resource center, Rhode Island’s only shelters for male victims of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking, support and advocacy for children who witness domestic violence, immigration advocacy, free HIV testing and support, and prevention education programs for students. For more information, visitwww.sojournerri.org.