Story and photo by Debbi Casini Klein | Audio edited by Louis D’Aria
Karissa Kunco was a cheerful, optimistic 21-year old with many friends, a close family and dreams of someday being a pharmacist.
Those dreams were shattered in January of 2012, when Karissa became a victim of domestic violence. Her ex-boyfriend stalked her, brutally killing her and leaving her body in a wooded area in Washington County.
Devastated by her death, Karissa’s friends did not want her to be just another statistic. They formed what they called “Karissa’s Army” in the hopes of creating awareness of domestic violence. It started at the funeral home when they sold hundreds of wrist bands that said “Karissa’s Army” on them.
“Maybe it will open one person’s lives to make them realize that if you are in an abusive relationship,” said Alicia Maria King, one of Karissa’s closest friends. “And the thing is, domestic violence is more than just physical abuse. It’s mental abuse. It’s verbal abuse, and people don’t realize it until it becomes physical. And that’s when it’s almost like, you’re trapped and it’s too late, but it’s never too late, but they feel it’s too late.”
“Karissa’s Army” has grown with over 5,000 followers on Facebook. Through fundraisers and donations, they’ve raised thousands of dollars for women’s shelters across Western Pennsylvania.