Today Jared Remy pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Jennifer Martel. While it may seem like this story has ended with a sentence of life in prison without parole, the impact this tragedy has on the lives of the people who knew and cared about Jennifer is far from over. No court can bring back the life of a young woman, a mother, a best friend; a guilty plea doesn’t make it less painful that Jennifer is gone. While we cannot bring Jennifer back, as a community we can all have a part in preventing another tragedy like this from occurring.
In statements today, Jennifer’s friends and family shared their hope that this story will help people understand the warning signs of domestic violence. We may see pictures of Jared Remy and hear stories about his violent past and think that we would be able to spot the warning signs right away or that we would never get involved with someone who could be violent. In many situations, the warning signs may be difficult for us to recognize as abuse is not always physical and often happens behind closed doors.
Domestic violence is complex. When it touches our lives personally it may challenge the stereotypes we hold about abusers and victims. Abusers seek to maintain power and control over a partner not only through physical force. They might limit communication with friends, demean family and friends, control access to money, demand sex, blame others and take no responsibility, destroy possessions, give commands, use threatening gestures and instill fear. Many abusers can be charming, professional, respected members of the community making it much more difficult for us to recognize their behavior as abusive.
Even when we do recognize signs of abuse in a friend or family member’s relationship, it can be difficult to know what to do. We want the person we care about to be safe and we see leaving as a solution to end the violence they are experiencing. When people hear about this story, many of them have asked “Why didn’t she just leave?” In reality we know that leaving is the most dangerous time for someone experiencing domestic violence. Abuse is about power and control; when a victim tries to end the relationship the abuser feels their control is being threatened and may escalate the violence. In this particular case, that escalation turned out to be fatal. It would be easier to look at this story as an individual tragedy, a one-time occurrence, but doing so doesn’t allow us to recognize that domestic violence is happening all around us, and it affects us all. REACH and domestic violence organizations across the state are available to provide support, and to help facilitate healing for individuals, families, and communities. We are here to provide education to friends, families, and neighbors to help identify warning signs and know how to support someone who is experiencing domestic violence or hold an abuser accountable. Together we can do something about it. Together we can continue this conversation long after the headlines have changed. Together we can reach beyond domestic violence.
REACH hotline is available 24/7 at 800.899.4000. More information is available at www.reachma.org.