Advocates: Greenwich suitcase murder shows escalation of intimate partner violence
GREENWICH — The arrest of an ex-boyfriend of Valerie Reyes in her killing brought with it new context to the murder of the 24-year-old woman.
The brutal act — in which Reyes’ mouth was covered with tape, her wrists and legs bound, her body stuffed in a suitcase and dumped on the side of a Greenwich road — was done at the hands of a former intimate partner, according to investigators.
If law enforcement’s theory about how she died proves to be true, Reyes is one of millions of women who have been seriously physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner each year in the U.S.
“The arrest of an ex-boyfriend in the Valerie Reyes case is not surprising to us, given that the majority of homicides against women are committed by current or former intimate partners,” said Mary Lee Kiernan, president and CEO of the YWCA Greenwich. “While we don’t yet know the exact cause of death, we continue to be deeply disturbed by the horrific violence and degrading objectification that is already evident.”
Reyes, who lived in New Rochelle, N.Y., was reported missing on Jan. 29. Her body was found off Glenville Road on Feb. 5. Javier Da Silva, 24, of Queens, N.Y., was charged with a federal count of kidnapping resulting in death in the case. Da Silva, who had overstayed his visa and was not in the country legally at the time of the killing, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Da Silva was the type of guy who “wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Norma Sanchez, Reyes’ mother. He and Reyes had dated for several months about a year ago.
Lucy Nolan, director of policy and public relations at the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said she wasn’t shocked that an intimate partner was arrested in the case. It exhibits the escalation of violence and control many abusive relationships involve, she said.
“This is why people get restraining orders,” she said. “It’s because real damage can happen. A woman can’t control somebody who is out of control.”
Kiernan said the anxiety and depression Reyes reportedly suffered may have been a sign that something else was going on in her personal life.
“Valerie may have been exhibiting the trauma of abuse that victims of intimate partner violence suffer,” she said. “Often this trauma is misidentified as a mental health issue, paranoia or dramatic behavior, when victims are in fact suffering from various forms of abuse, coping with serious trauma and reaching out for help.”
The night before Reyes went missing, her mother said the young woman told her she was afraid she would be murdered.
Intimate partner violence makes up 15 percent of all violent crime in the U.S. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to be abused by an intimate partner, according to a study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Each year in the America, an average of more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner, per the study.
One in four women and one in nine men experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner. One in 10 woman have been raped by an intimate partner. Data for male victims is not available. One in seven woman and one in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner and feared they would be killed or harmed.
One in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped. More than half of female and male rape victims were raped by someone they knew, and of those cases 45.5 percent of women and 29 percent of men were raped by an intimate partner.
In America, 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men have been stalked. More than 60 percent of female stalking victims and 43 percent of men were stalked by an intimate partner.
Kiernan said YWCA Greenwich will continue its violence prevention education programs in schools throughout the community to promote healthy behaviors and relationships.
“Prevention education, starting at a young age, is critical,” she said.
Throughout Connecticut, nonprofits and police departments have adopted a lethality assessment program in an effort to save lives.
“Service providers such as YWCA Greenwich and police officers ask a suspected victim of intimate partner violence a standardized list of questions, and if the victim screens positive showing a risk of lethality, the victim is immediately connected with crisis services and sheltering,” she said. “The LAP screen is an evidence-based questionnaire based on a nationally recognized model that has proven to reduce lethality in abusive intimate partner relationships.”
If you are someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the statewide crisis hotline at 888-774-2900. In Greenwich, the YWCA hotline is 203-622-0003.