His grief becomes a gripping message

March 18, 2007 

Standing in the projectors light beam, photo shows Patty and Lane Judson holding a photo of their daughter Crystal taken when she was a senior at the University of Washington in 1989 at age 21 and doing some modeling. They are pictured with equipment they use projecting a list of the Common Indicators of Domestic Violence that is in their hour presentation on domestic violence. Their daughter Crystal was murdered by her husband who was Tacoma's Chief of Police. (Russ Carmack/The News Tribune)

RUSS CARMACK/THE NEWS TRIBUNE

He speaks to military families. Women in prison. Political groups. Anyone who will listen.

And when Lane Judson presents his message that domestic violence devastates families and rips apart communities, audiences often cry.

“It was extremely powerful, very, very powerful,” Washington women’s prison superintendent Carol Porter said of the presentation Lane and Patty Judson gave to about 125 inmates at the facility in Purdy.

“Clearly the offenders and the staff that were present were absolutely moved by their generosity of time and caring and emotion,” Porter added.

The parents of Crystal Judson, who was killed by her Tacoma police chief husband four years ago, are working to change laws and raise awareness of domestic violence from Washington state to Washington, D.C.

Their pressure on legislators to stiffen laws and fund programs is well-documented.

What’s less known is Lane Judson’s appearance at forums large and small to detail the personal consequences of an abuser’s actions.

About a year ago, he got help with a multimedia presentation about Crystal’s life – and death. He bought more than $3,000 worth of equipment so he didn’t have to worry whether a small service club had an adequate audiovisual system.

And he began speaking out. Now, he’s booked clear into fall.

His hourlong talk uses music, slides and words to convey the loss of a mother, a daughter, a sister. He speaks about the signs of domestic abuse. And he asks listeners to watch for them.

“It brings awareness,” he said. “I think we need that. There is so much domestic violence going on. Getting the word out helps people understand. We’re bringing it out from underneath the carpet.”

His speech sponsored by the Kitsap County Domestic Violence Task Force a year ago was titled “I Love You to Death.” A flier advertised his talk to the Grays Harbor College Human Services Club this way: “Til Death Do Us Part.”

Nearly 360 people died in homcides by domestic violence abusers in Washington between Jan. 1, 1997, and June 30, 2006, according to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Fatality Review. More than 30 of those were children.

“I really respect their dedication to ensuring that this doesn’t happen to another family,” said Joshua Johnston, who’s worked closely with the Judsons in their quest to get Congress’ attention to their cause. Johnston is a local aide to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

After Lane Judson spoke to more than 100 people at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station last July, education facilitator Dave Thomason got several calls from people “commenting on how powerful and eye-opening” his speech and insights were.

Members of the Pierce County Mainstream Republican Group were similarly affected when he talked to them last month, former Gig Harbor Mayor Gretchen Wilbert said.

“The people sat speechless during the presentation,” she recalled. “Ordinarily people get tired. Twenty minutes is about all they can do from a speaker, but he held their attention the entire time.”

Wilbert now wants him to talk to area school administrators, teachers and counselors so they can pass on the lesson to their students.

Judson, 71, hopes his message gets spread to people of every age.

“It’s tough for me to go talk about it sometimes,” he said. “But I do it. Domestic violence is not a private matter. If you see it or hear of it, report it. And go make sure that the abuser gets help.”

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