Tragedy spurs womens’ safety discussion

Published 10:00 am Friday, July 10, 2015

MOMENT OF PRAYER: The Rev. Beth Palmer leads a prayer Wednesday morning following the initial appearance of Rafael McCloud, accused of the abduction, rape and killing of Sharen Wilson.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: The Rev. Beth Palmer leads a prayer Wednesday morning following the initial appearance of Rafael McCloud, accused of the abduction, rape and killing of Sharen Wilson.

The tragic death of 69-year-old Sharen Wilson rocked residents of Vicksburg, but Beth Palmer decided to take a stand and in her community.

Wilson was abducted from her home June 27. She was murdered and her body was found near the abandoned Kuhn Memorial Hospital on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Palmer, a pastor at Church of the Holy Trinity, has organized a “Ladies’ Night Out and personal safety discussion” for July 23 at 6 p.m. She wanted to have a positive response to recent murder of Wilson.

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“I wanted it to be something positive because this is such a horrific, horrific event,” Palmer said. “Hearing people talk about their fears about their neighborhoods, going out at night, driving back to a house if they live alone or having trouble sleeping, I thought maybe we need to get together and comfort each other.”

Ladies’ Night Out is free and open to all women 16-years-old and older in the community.

Speakers for the event will include Danielle Williams and Tjuana Washington, crime prevention specialists from the Vicksburg Police Department. Counselor Katie Wright from Grace Christian Center, Fawn Francis, licensed massage therapist and owner of Secret Garden Spa also will be in attendance.

“I immediately contacted the police department and said ‘can somebody come out and talk to us about personal safety, particularly having to do with women,’” Palmer said. “I’m hoping it’s serious but it’s also reassuring.”

There will be no gun vendors or teachings on self-defense strategies.

When Palmer first began to plan this event, she thought of an informal gathering of 20 women in Holy Trinity to talk makeup tips and safety.

After putting the event on Facebook Friday morning, she saw how quickly people were interested in attending and had to change her idea.

She met with a group of women after realizing the crowd coming to the event was going to be more than she can handle alone. Among the women in the group was Bobbie Marascalco who said this shouldn’t be viewed as a one-time event and we should view it as the first of many events focusing on different topics.

People say Vicksburg is such a small town where everyone knows each other and think of it as home, but Palmer said the recent events remind us there is evil in our community. Palmer thinks women being safe and able to protect themselves are vitally and critically important. She hopes women in Vicksburg can feel safe, wise and careful after leaving her seminar. She wants them to feel less afraid.

“I want them to feel as if we’re in this together, meaning we’re living in the 21st century in this community together,” Palmer said. “We need to watch out for each other, help each other and remind each other on how to take care of ourselves.”

Palmer also hopes this event helps calm women’s fears and help women to be careful but not as fearful and emotionally traumatized.

“I really hope a lot of women come and it’s a broad cross-section of Vicksburg because I think it’s an important topic and I think we need to work together.

There will be a question and answer during the crime prevention portion of the night. Palmer does not want this to turn in a grilling session on why VPD did and did not do certain things.

She does not view the crime as racially motivated and does not want the crowd to believe so either.

“I want to keep it true to the message of: Sharen Wilson was a beautiful, faithful and gracious person. We want to honor her life.”