YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Fliers and notices were stuffed into grocery bags and placed on counters at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. An e-mail was sent to all the commands, and there was an appearance on Yokosuka Reports, the base news report, in which Cynthia Byas-Turner thought afterward she might have seemed too cheerful when she talked about family violence.

They had space for 40, an urn of coffee and a big box of cookies. But just one person showed up Tuesday for Byas-Turner’s event, a movie and discussion about domestic violence and abuse.

“I don’t know … Is it the rain? Or apathy?” said Byas-Turner, a family advocacy educator who works for the Fleet and Family Support Center and had devised the event as part of an effort to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Byas-Turner and colleague Suzanne Moore Pruitt, a counselor at the support center, had planned to show “This Boy’s Life,” the 1993 movie starring Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin and Leonardo DiCaprio, based on the writer Tobias Wolff’s coming-of-age memoir.

The story is about how DiCaprio’s teenage character manages to outwit fate and his abusive stepfather, played by De Niro, to escape to prep school and a more assured future. The film also shows how De Niro’s character terrorizes not only his stepson, but also his own children and his new wife, played by Barkin, making everyone, including himself, miserable.

“It’s an excellent film,” Pruitt said. “It demonstrates every aspect of domestic violence.”

Byas-Turner agreed, choosing it over “The Burning Bed,” with Farrah Fawcett, in which the abuser ends up dead, and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” the Ike and Tina Turner story, in which Tina triumphs over Ike’s abuse, finds her biggest fame as a solo act and finds peace in Buddhism. Ike just sort of fades away.

Byas-Turner said she’d hoped for a broad mix of attendees. “I had no demographic in mind,” she said. “I was hoping if a [family advocacy] rep couldn’t be here, he’d send someone else. And anyone with an interest, who wanted to be educated.”

After the movie, she was hoping for a fruitful discussion of the film, guided by a list of 12 questions. The first was “How did this movie make you feel?”

But only Graciela Meave, ombudsman for Carrier Strike Group 5, was there in the rec room of Jyuban Tower apartments at 1 p.m. for the event.

“This is very important for an ombudsman,” Meave said. “Especially in this community. The ships are gone for a long time, and then they come back, and to get back to a family life — it’s not easy.”

Meave had learned of the presentation from her husband, Carrier Strike Group 5’s legal chief and discipline officer, and had attended in his place because he was busy with other briefings and meetings. Chief Petty Officer Fernando Maeve also is tasked with being the command family advocacy representative, or FAR, which is why he got the e-mail. The FAR in each command is the liason between the command and the base’s family advocacy counselors in the event of family violence or abuse.

He’d asked his wife to attend, he said, because he couldn’t. “It’s an important topic,” he said.

Byas-Turner said she hopes some people turn out for her next presentation on domestic violence. It’s called “Speaking Up: Ending Domestic Violence in Our Communities,” and it’s scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 19 at Jyuban Tower.

This time, instead of cookies, Byas-Turner was planning to provide lunch. “I was going to order pizza,” she said.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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