Recent killing reveals dangers of domestic abuse
Family Services of Tulare County shares warning signs of abusive relationships as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – Valerie Martinez was described as a pure soul with a kind heart. She was a beautiful person, inside and out, who could brighten a room with her smile. The 21-year-old had her whole life in front of her, but the person she was sharing that life with is now facing charges for ending Martinez’s and, in a way, ending his own.
Earlier this month, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office charged Martinez’s boyfriend, 20-year-old Anthony Martin, with first-degree murder with the special allegation of intentional use of a firearm causing great bodily injury or death, and possession of an assault weapon. According to court documents, Martin used a rifle to kill Martinez on the morning of Oct. 5 at their home in the 3900 block of E. Harvard Ave. Martin faces life in prison if convicted on all charges.
The Visalia Police Department is investigating the crime as a domestic violence incident. Caity Meader, CEO of Family Services of Tulare County, said that makes Martinez’s death the second domestic violence related homicide in the last year after going two years with a single death. Family Services is a non-profit organization that helps survivors of domestic violence through their 24-hour hotline and shelter. Meader said domestic violence tends to escalate when the aggressor has a perceived loss of control. The aggressor may begin by verbally abusing the victim or isolating them from family and friends. This combination tends to turn deadly when the aggressor has access to a gun.
“Women are five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence situation if there is access to a firearm,” Meader said.
In cases such as Martin’s, Meader said they recommend the victim reach out to Family Services or Family Crisis Center in Porterville and work with an advocate to guide them through the process. The most important step is helping victims come up with a safety plan, where they find out when and how they will leave, where they will live and if they will file a restraining order.
“These can often be life saving instructions,” Meader said.
Meader said there are many misconceptions as to why women don’t leave an abusive relationship, but many domestic violence cases don’t start out abusive and the pattern of behavior doesn’t develop overnight. Domestic violence also varies in every relationship. The one thing they have in common is that the abusive partner tries to exert more power and control over their partner.
According to Family Services, some of the signs of an abusive relationship include a partner who:
-Tells you that you can never do anything right
-Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
-Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members
-Insults, demeans or shames you with put-downs
-Controls every penny spent in the household
-Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses
-Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
-Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
-Prevents you from making your own decisions
-Tells you that you are a bad parent or threatens to harm or take away your children
-Prevents you from working or attending school
-Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets
-Intimidates you with guns, knives or other weapons
-Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
-Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
Meader said another misconception is that a friend or family member should callout possible abuse with the victim. Meader said this could have dire consequences if the victim gets defensive and could incite them to stay in the situation. Instead, Meader said concerned friends and family members should make the conversation about the victim’s wellbeing. The most important things are to listen without judgment, let them know you believe them, support their decisions and ask what you can do to help.
“Don’t approach them by being negative about the abuser,” Meader said. “Reach out in love and out of concern for their safety or for their children’s safety.”
Friends and family of Valerie are hoping that her story could help prevent others from being the victim of domestic violence. They have also started a GoFundMe page to help Valerie’s family with funeral expenses. The family has a goal of raising $10,000. As of press time, they had raised over $9,356.
“I pray that the amount of joy that she brought to everyone who knew her, carries on,” Valerie’s friend Adriana Contreras wrote on the page. “Being just 21 years old, she was taken too soon from us and will be so greatly missed.”
Even if you don’t think you know any victims of domestic violence you can still support Family Services in their mission to prevent future deaths and to raise awareness about the issue. In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Family Services invites you to participate in Purple Thursday on Oct. 24. Wear purple to show your support for survivors of domestic violence.
On Purple Thursday, wear purple, the color of domestic violence prevention awareness, take a photo and share it on social media using #PurpleThursday. You can also make donations by calling 559-732-1970, visiting fstc.net or by mailing checks to Family Services, 815 W. Oak St., Visalia, CA 93291.