Domestic abuse is about power and control. When that is threatened, violence can escalate, as the abuser attempts to coerce his victim into staying.
That is what relatives believe happened to 18-year-old She’Kierra Shareese Adams. She died last Saturday in what police said was a murder-suicide.
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Her grieving mother is sharing her story to hopefully save the next young woman. Dawn Adams, 47, described She’Kierra as a beautiful, bubbly young woman who worked as a loader for UPS but dreamed of modeling and competing on America’s Next Top Model.
The youngest of six, She’Kierra spent her early years in Atlanta, but moved to Philadelphia when she was 8. She and her mother spoke regularly. On April 18, Adams said, her daughter called and asked her mother to pray for her.
“I said, ‘Why, what is going on?’ and I pulled over," recalled Adams, a private duty nurse and warehouse worker who lives in Atlanta. “She said, ‘Could you just say a special prayer for me? Because I really need it right now.’”
At the time, She’Kierra was planning for her son’s first birthday, which was Tuesday. It was supposed to have a Mickey Mouse theme.
But she didn’t live long enough to throw it.
Her family said that last Saturday, She’Kierra’s ex-boyfriend, Raquill Holland, showed up outside a relative’s house where she had been staying. She took their baby and stepped outside to meet him. Then, she was gone, leaving behind the baby’s car seat and her purse, which was unlike her.
When police arrived at the Sharon Hill basement apartment that She’Kierra had once shared with Holland, they found both dead from gunshot wounds. She’Kierra’s body was curled in a fetal position, as if to protect her son, who was shot in a thigh and the abdomen. He is in the custody of the Delaware County Office of Children and Youth Services.
The couple, who had once resided in the 100 block of Laurel Road, had a history of volatility. She’Kierra would get fed up, only to return. Shortly after she ended the relationship this month, things turned deadly. Adams thinks her daughter stayed because she desperately wanted her child to have both his mother and father in the home — something She’Kierra never had.
Her response was not unusual. Too often, people don’t recognize warning signs that a partner may be abusive. Or they confuse jealousy for love. Young women between the ages of 18 and 24 have the highest rate of intimate-partner violence, according to Break the Cycle, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young people have healthy relationships.
Many women stay because they are committed to the idea of a two-parent household. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have anyplace else to go. So, they downplay the abuse. They make excuses. They hope against hope that their relationship will get better. Too often, as in She’Kierra’s case, it gets worse.
Statistics show one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic abuse is when she attempts to leave her abuser.
“I want to take this and let this be known worldwide, that this is really serious," Adams said of domestic abuse. “Don’t stay there and accept this just because you have kids. Let somebody know."
If She’Kierra had only spoken out, maybe she would be alive today.
As her oldest brother, Omar Lee, told me, “I ain’t know it was that serious.” The pain in his voice when he said that was palpable.