Domestic violence does not discriminate by income or social position or neighborhood. It is found on all rungs of the social ladder, and it’s often a quiet, unknown problem. Bruises are covered; children are taught to keep it to themselves, or do so out of shame. Neighbors who want to help are frustrated by the hesitation, the reluctance of victims to come forward and to take legal action.
This week, there was a march that stopped on the steps of the Wake County courthouse to call attention to the problem of domestic violence, which has claimed five lives in the county this year. The courthouse was, as The N&O noted, the same place where two victims of that violence had filed for protective orders against their husbands.
But that wasn’t enough. Both the women were killed by their abusive spouses.
The issue is not just at hand whenever there’s a march, or a speech by an activist, or a move in the General Assembly to do more to protect abused spouses. Sometimes, a heinous act underlines the issue in an awful way.
Just this week, Kathleen Bertrand, mother of three, was shot to death outside her workplace in the usually quiet Cameron Village shopping center in Raleigh. Her ex-husband, Christopher John Bertrand, would have been charged in the murder, but he killed himself four hours later.
Bertrand’s murder was not the reason for the march, however. In a cruel irony, the march was to bring attention to the death of Agata Filipska Vellotti. She, too, was shot to death, and her husband from whom she was estranged, Mario Vellotti, has been charged with her murder.
Interact, the organization that helps abused women, had tried to help Vellotti. The nonprofit group has a 24-hour crisis line and has a confidential residential program for women and children who are trying to break free of domestic violence.
Vellotti had moved out of her home and been given, by a judge, a protective order against her husband and his adult son.
That, needless to say, had some women at the march and doubtless many others who knew the story pretty shook up. Here was someone who took action, who went to a judge. And still, she was killed.
Bertrand was divorced. But the danger apparently was ever-present.
Interact advises abused women, strongly, to tell most of the people they know that they have protective orders against husbands or ex-husbands or boyfriends. When neighbors and church members and friends and co-workers know this, it means they can make a call if they see the person who is threatening a woman (or also, presumably, a man) and get some help from law enforcement.
The domestic violence problem, said Christina Brewer of Interact, shouldn’t be viewed as affecting individuals alone, but rather as affecting an entire community, which must be aware and on guard. That won’t stop an abusive spouse initially, perhaps, but it might prevent those spouses from taking a final, violent step.