Statement by Judith Earle, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, and Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, August 12, 2013
"We are very saddened today at the loss of the lives of Evelyn Burgos and her daughter, Vanessa Perez. We are, however, grateful that Burgos' two-year-old son Isaiah Perez was found physically unharmed after being abducted from his home following the alleged murder of his mother and sister by Daniel Rodriguez."
"Our hearts go out to the family, friends and community of the two women and the three children who may have witnessed the tragedy. Domestic violence all too often impacts families, friends and bystanders, and we must remember them in our response to and prevention of these cases. While the details of this particular case are still unfolding, we know that Rodriguez has a lengthy criminal history that includes domestic violence incidents, and that Rodriguez and Burgos were involved in an ongoing domestic dispute, according to police."
"Given the police reports, it is clear that these murders did not come about suddenly or without warning; they were likely Rodriguez's final act of abuse. We must be sure to refer to this double murder as what it is: the final act of domestic violence, for murder is the ultimate expression of the abuser's need to control his partner's behavior."
"That Rodriguez has a lengthy history of criminal charges and convictions, including several for serious, violent crimes and was still able to commit murder, indicates a system-wide failure that must be addressed. It is especially tragic that even though Rodriguez had prior contact with the judicial system, it failed to keep him accountable and ultimately left Burgos and Perez vulnerable to an attack. There are signs we must pay attention to, especially those who are responsible for prosecuting these crimes, and there are mechanisms to help – both within our judicial system and for bystanders. Any issue contributing to the process of dismissing domestic violence charges at either the local or state level needs to be evaluated to prevent additional losses of life."
"The lesson in this tragedy is that domestic violence murders are preventable. Abusers must be kept accountable, and what is at stake is the safety of untold women, men and children who need their communities and officials to do what is necessary to protect them. The loss of Burgos and Perez is a very serious reminder that we all have much work to do in achieving a society in Rhode Island that is free of violence in the home; each of us has a responsibility to intervene. What is more, we must address the issue of firearms with regards to domestic violence perpetrators."
"This year, Rhode Island legislature proposed, but was unable to pass, a bill that would have made it illegal for individuals such as Rodriguez who had been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, to possess firearms. We hope when legislature returns they will be able to act on this important issue and help local police keep firearms out of the hands of convicted abusers."
"The high number of domestic violence deaths caused by firearms illustrates the extreme dangers that guns can bring to a home. More than 50 percent of the domestic violence deaths in Rhode Island since 1980 have been caused by firearms. The presence of firearms greatly increases the danger not just for domestic violence victims, but also for bystanders — of the 38 domestic violence attacks we have on record since 1980 resulting in multiple deaths, only 7 of those were not committed with guns and every death of a child in those incidents was caused by a firearm."
"It is important to remember that these acts were not isolated incidents; they are part of a public health crisis here in Rhode Island, where domestic violence happens in every community. To prevent another tragedy, citizens and policymakers must make a commitment to say NO MORE and help end domestic violence. The RICADV's six local domestic violence agencies provide a wide array of services for victims – including 24 hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups, counseling services, and assistance with the legal system. For more information about these organizations and services, call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100. And if you hear or see someone being hurt, call 911 immediately."