COUNTYWIDE — We received a statement this morning about the alleged domestic violence strangulations of (separate cases) David Hurley in Bayonne and Monika Potoczniak in Jersey City. The statement came from Jane Shivas, Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and should be read by anyone in such a situation (it addresses what to watch out for), or anyone who may know someone in a similar situation.
Our hearts are heavy today as we learned about two alleged domestic violence strangulations that resulted in the unrelated deaths of David Hurley, 50, of Bayonne, and Monika Potoczniak, 27, and her son Christopher, 4, of Jersey City. Our thoughts are with their friends, neighbors, and family.
As we strive to raise critical awareness, these tragedies serve as stark reminders that domestic violence is one of the most serious public health crises plaguing our state and that we can and must do more to educate our communities in the hopes of preventing these murders. Domestic violence affects us all and every one of us can do something.
It has been reported that both David and Monika were strangled by their intimate partners. David’s wife allegedly strangled him in response to ongoing divorce issues. He died more than a week after the initial assault. And just the day before, Monika and Christopher were taken to the hospital where they would later die from their injuries. Police have issued an arrest warrant for Monika’s estranged boyfriend José Santos-Alvarez.
While the details of these cases are still unfolding and we cannot comment on the specifics, we need to acknowledge and send the message that:
LEAVING IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME
When victims are attempting to leave a relationship by divorce or in any other way, it is the most dangerous time for them and their children. We must disengage from victim blaming and seek to understand the immense fear of further harm to themselves and their loved ones that victims face. People leave relationships all the time and while it can be stressful, most are not threatened with violence. We must hold batterers accountable in every case of domestic violence – there simply is no excuse.
STRANGULATION IS LETHAL
Strangulation is the most lethal of abuse tactics and – as occurred in these cases – can result in death days, weeks or even months after the initial assault. It is also the greatest predictor of homicide for victims of domestic violence. We are alarmed that there have been 3 domestic violence strangulation murders in the last month. New Jersey must take notice and be consistently diligent in the reporting and charging of these crimes. We implore the media and law enforcement to use the correct terminology in these cases. This is a domestic violence strangulation, not choking, which was the term used in the reporting of Mr. Hurley’s death. When law enforcement communities and the media use the term strangulation in their reports documenting incidents of domestic violence, they tend to be more successful in conveying the seriousness of the incident and crime.1 When we use the term domestic violence, we help others understand that these are not random acts of violence, but instead part of a pattern of controlling behaviors where there is often a history of physical and/or non-physical forms of abuse. We have the knowledge and ability to prevent domestic violence murders and we must all do our part.
What’s more, at the center of domestic violence is abusers’ need to control their partners. Strangulation is often a tactic that they use to exert this control – it is a highly intimate and personal type of violence with serious health impacts that can lead to death. The motive here is usually not to kill their victim, but to demonstrate their power and control over their victim, to silence them and illustrate that their lives are in their hands.
CHILDREN ARE AFFECTED
Domestic violence gravely affects children and we must not forget about them as we look for solutions to prevent domestic violence. Most people believe that domestic violence only affects adults; however, this couldn’t be farther from reality.
Children are often present during domestic violence assaults. Children can be injured in domestic violence incidents, especially those too young to protect themselves or get help. What’s more, we know that children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk for poor long-term health outcomes including chronic diseases, substance abuse, dropping out of school, employment challenges, and even early death.2
Sadly, children were involved or present during 30 percent of all domestic violence offenses occurring in New Jersey in 2013. Specifically, 5 percent (2,916) were involved and 25 percent (16,149) were present3. A review of Child Protective Services cases in two states identified domestic violence in up to 43 percent of cases resulting in the critical injury or death of a child4.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS EVERYONE
Domestic violence can happen to anyone and everyone is affected by this preventable crime.
While domestic violence remains largely gender-based violence against women, it is important to note that 1 out of every 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime5. This public health epidemic is also about family violence, and as a statewide network we have programs dedicated to serving all victims and their children. Help is available for anyone who experiences intimate partner violence in every county in New Jersey. It is even more important that we share this information with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors because men do not often view themselves as victims of abuse and when they do, they often do not report it.
Finally, we feel it’s important to note that domestic violence knows no boundaries regardless of race, class, education level, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, nation of origin, or ability – anyone can be a victim. Through its Inclusion and Access Initiative, NJCEDV strives to work with member organizations and community partners to ensure that programs and services are inclusive and accessible to individuals from all backgrounds and communities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. We must remember that every New Jersey citizen has a right to be safe where they live, work and play, and every victim and child who witnesses domestic violence deserves a life free from domestic violence.
As caring community members, domestic violence is our business. It is our responsibility to learn more so we can do more to help. When we help in even the smallest way, collectively, we can prevent domestic violence from claiming the lives of untold victims and the futures of their children.
Let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey for everyone.
For more on these incidents, please see hudsonreporter.com, the scrolling breaking news items at the top.