The Legacy of Lindsay Ann Burke

Lindsay Anne Burke is gone.  Seven years ago today, she was murdered by someone who “loved” her.  This happened two miles from my house–the story broke as I was eating dinner.  I thought to myself, “Oh my god, that poor family.” Then I realized it was Lindsay.

Lindsay was the beautiful, intelligent, and kind daughter of my colleague and friend. She was the type of person who always took action to help others, and whom others loved.

We see these stories in the news all too often. Let me take a moment to remember her, and the life she left behind.

Lindsay was twenty-three years old when her life ended.  She was a graduate of Rhode Island College, looking forward to a career in elementary and special education–ready to change lives.  At Lindsay’s college graduation, no one would have predicted the way she would be changing lives in the future–the many people she would, indeed, save.  No one would have wished for it to have worked this way.  If Lindsay were here today, her students might have been entering high school. Maybe one of them would have been in my class with me discussing ways we can change the world.  Looking forward to a bright future…

Lindsay’s future is her legacy.  Through their grief, her parents, Chris and Ann, have done great things.  Things no parent should have to do. They have started the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund in order to promote awareness of the relationship abuse that often starts in high school and ends in tragedy.  They have been summoned to share their story with Vice President and Dr. Biden, who supported them in their mission to promote domestic abuse awareness and education.  Through their family, many people have been saved.  This I know.  Because domestic abuse is a cycle, and cycles are not easily broken without intensive intervention.  Domestic abuse affects men and women, high school boys and girls, parents and children. It is about control, manipulation, isolation, and violence. And the ending—whether it ends in death of a human being or death of a spirit, is always a tragedy.

Sadly, Lindsay’s story is not the only I have seen. I have seen other women who were not able to break the cycle of abuse. I have seen their children live through this being inducted into the cycle. I have seen domestic abuse affect men–men who would not report the issue for fear of embarrassment, because of gender expectations that men remain strong, or because the courts were not willing to support men on this issue. Thankfully, due in no small part to Lindsay’s courageous parents, the courts are starting to take these issues seriously for both men and women alike.

Lindsay came from a family of educators who worked with thousands of students–saw thousands of relationships bloom before their eyes. And yet it happened to Lindsay. And I have seen it happen to others. The Lindsay Ann Burke story is that relationship violence can happen to anyone. It is never acceptable. It is a cycle. It must be broken. In order to do so, we must be educated and aware.  This is the legacy of Lindsay Ann Burke.

Chris and Ann Burke have chosen to save the daughters and sons of others by taking action in Lindsay’s name.  Their foundation provides materials, advertisements, workshops, and support for teens, families, parents, teachers, and friends. For this, they are among my heroes.  For this, they deserve our awareness, attention, and respect.  Maybe together, we can break the cycle in domestic and relationship abuse.  If it saves one family from having to say goodbye to a beloved child, it will have been worthwhile.

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