RALEIGH — Dozens of women and several men gathered Wednesday on the steps of the Wake County courthouse – just steps away from where two women had filed for protective orders against the abusive husbands who later killed them – to bring attention to domestic violence.
“She did all the right things,” said Jennifer Craven, who came to the march the day after friend Kathleen Bertrand, the mother of three children, was shot to death outside her workplace in Cameron Village by ex-husband Christopher John Bertrand, who took his own life four hours later.
Bertrand was the fifth person killed so far this year in Wake County as a consequence of domestic violence, according to Christina Brewer, a spokeswoman for Interact of Wake County, organizer of the march. That equals last year’s total number of homicides attributed to domestic violence.
Though the timing coincided with Bertrand’s tragic death, the march had been organized last week to bring attention to the fatal shooting Aug. 30 of Agata Filipska Vellotti, 43. Her estranged husband, Mario Vellotti, 64, is charged with her murder.
Agata Vellotti had reached out to Interact before when we she felt threatened by her husband. The nonprofit operates a 24-hour crisis line, as well as Wake County’s only confidential residential program for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
She had moved out of the home in Wakefield, where she lived with her husband and adult stepson, and a judge granted her a domestic violence protective order against both.
The realization that neither her move nor the judge’s order had protected Vellotti left some women who attended Wednesday’s march sobbing and consoling each other.
“This is a call to action,” Brewer said. “The most recent domestic violence-related deaths are not isolated events, and they are everybody’s issue.”
Brewer said Interact advises women to tell their coworkers, neighbors, church members and friends that they’ve received the protective order so all can be on alert.
Marita Westgard of Raleigh, who attended the march, believes that stopping the cycle of domestic violence should begin with children who are exposed to it at an early age. She would like to work with an outreach program for elementary school-age children to teach them how to deal with conflicts without resorting to violence.
“The point is to reach people before they grow up in a cycle of abuse,” Westgard said.