By Gerard Flanagan, news writer/photographer/social media, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – For many people, gun violence is a devastating reality and not just something they hear about on the news.
Dr. Renee Sartin, associate professor of social work and Bachelor of Social Work site director at Campbellsville University’s Louisville Education Center, has experienced the impact of gun violence firsthand.
Sartin, who has turned those experiences into an opportunity to help others, gave a presentation at Centre Square in Lebanon Feb. 27 titled “Call to Action: Grief to Growth.”
On Sept. 15, 2020, Sartin’s son, Michael Allen Glenn Sartin, was shot to death in his car in Louisville. He was 29.
His murder, the 114th homicide in Louisville in 2020, remains unsolved to this day.
“They told us our son had a quick death, and he did not feel any pain,” Sartin said. “I believe my son suffered. I believe he fought for his life as he struggled to take his last breath.”
Sartin and her family are not alone when it comes to experiencing gun violence. During her presentation, Sartin asked those in attendance to raise their hands if they know someone who’s been a victim of gun violence.
Nearly everyone’s hands went in the air.
Sartin said, even as times passes, the pain her family feels remains, but they find ways to cope.
“We shift the pain to the backgrounds of our lives,” Sartin said. “It’s still there, but we have a little bit of distance from it. It’s been a year and five months, so we can breathe from time to time. We don’t cry every day anymore. Our hearts are heavy but not as heavy.”
According to Sartin, the United States has had more murders before the end of February this year than some developed countries have in the entire calendar year.
“Even though firearm homicide rates are higher in cities like Louisville than in areas like Lebanon or Springfield and Campbellsville, our young people of color, living in all the areas of the United States, are disproportionally affected by the firearm homicide rate,” Sartin said.
In addition to the story of her son’s murder, Sartin also shared the story of Maurice Stallard, who lost his life to gun violence.
“He was a church member who made an impact on me and my family,” Sartin said.
Stallard, 69, a retired employee of General Electric and a veteran, was killed in a shooting at a Kroger store Oct. 24, 2018 in Jeffersontown, a suburb of Louisville, while shopping with his grandson for a poster board.
“He was killed before his grandson’s eyes,” Sartin said. “Maurice was a kind soul. He had a kind word for all people who came into contact with him, and he met everyone with a smile.
“The shooting of Maurice Stallard was a hate crime, motivated by racism.”
Sartin’s nephew, Antuan Sartin, was shot six times in a Louisville nightclub March 17, 2018. Five other people were shot as well.
Miraculously, he survived.
“I’m here to tell the story through the grace of God,” Antuan said. “That’s the only reason I believe I’m standing here to tell this story.”
Antuan remembers his stepsister, who was uninjured, being by his side.
“I remember feeling myself slowly slip away,” he said. “I’m in her arms, and she’s telling me to stay up, and I tell her, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ My body was on fire. I couldn’t move my waist. I could only move my neck and shoulders.”
A police lieutenant performed CPR on Antuan, and a tourniquet was placed on his leg. Antuan had rods placed in his legs. He went to rehab and relearned how to walk. To this day, Antuan deals with nerve damage in his left foot.
“I was angry and hurt,” Antuan said. “I had a lot of mixed emotions.”
Last year, Antuan’s stepsister was killed due to gun violence.
“I want to help bring awareness to this senseless gun violence,” he said.
Sartin said, in grief, people will experience many emotions—like anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
“There may be stages you do not experience, or they may come about in a different order,” she said, “but it’s important for all of us to know grief can develop into something more serious, complicated grief, an acute grief that comes with many symptoms of depression.”
The process of grief must be completed for someone to properly heal.
“Without fully expressing and embracing the emotions of the grief, the loss remains alive and well, as if it’s happening over and over again,” Sartin said.
Growing from grief means many things, according to Sartin. It means knowing where your children are and being more involved in their lives. Growth means teaching your children what it means to respect our elders.
Growth also means recognizing our children are our greatest resources, and our elders are our greatest knowledge for history.
Growth means having tough conversations with our children and youth adults, and it means means checking to see if your child or young adult has an illegal gun and talking to them about the ramifications. Growth is knowing who your children hang out with and whether they are taking illegal drugs.
“All of these are our responsibilities as parents to our children,” Sartin said. “Their lives depend on it in most instances. Start a conversation with your children. Find out what their traumas are. There are many. Our children are faced with more than you could imagine.
“The decisions they have to make today are mind-blowing.”
Sartin said parents should encourage their children to seek help if they are grieving and invest more in their families.
“Let’s help our families find the resources they need to grow,” Sartin said. “We don’t want any other family to endure what we’ve gone through. We hope, after today, some of us may be able to move forward in making our neighborhoods, communities and eventually our state a safer place.”
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that has enrolled up to 12,000 students yearly. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.