Statement regarding the domestic violence murder of Rachael Rene

Tonya Harris
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Statement from Tonya Harris, Executive Director, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Vanessa Volz, Executive Director, Sojourner House

We are devastated by the domestic violence murder of Rachael Rene, which occurred in her Providence apartment yesterday and marks the first domestic violence homicide of 2019. Rachael was brutally stabbed by her boyfriend, Louis Motta, who surrendered himself to authorities shortly thereafter.

We are profoundly saddened that only two weeks into the new year, we are mourning another life lost to domestic violence. Rachael, just 33-years-old, was a beloved mother, friend, and member of our community. Her tragic murder reminds us that domestic violence happens every day, in every Rhode Island city and town. In such a small state, we are all affected by Rachael’s death. We extend our deepest condolences to her loved ones and to all who have been impacted by this heinous crime.

We are particularly distressed to learn that Rachael’s 8-month-old baby was in the home at the time of the murder. Our entire community of survivors and advocates holds this infant child and their family in our hearts, and embrace them with strength and love.

Every year in Rhode Island, children are present for nearly 2,000 police-involved domestic violence incidents. 1 In 2018, 575 children who witnessed abuse received services from our network of member agencies, 2 and because domestic violence is under reported, we know that we are reaching only a fraction of the children who are being impacted. Witnessing domestic violence as a child can lead to serious long-term health and developmental consequences, including depression, drug use, poor academic achievement, and post-traumatic stress disorder.3 Infants may experience problems sleeping and eating, and can develop “failure to thrive,” where they do not grow as expected.4

Rhode Island communities are close-knit, so with 1 in 4 Rhode Islanders experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes, we have all witnessed the suffering caused by abuse, or know someone who has. Understanding the dynamics of control, we know that perpetrators do not “just snap” or lose their tempers; their violence escalates as their control begins to erode.

Domestic violence murder is rarely an isolated incident, but is often the final act in a pattern of abuse that has escalated over time. Each of us needs to educate ourselves about the warning signs of domestic violence so that we can identify when someone we know is being abused and connect them to help and resources.

How you can help:

As relatives, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, we can help keep victims and their children safe and prevent another tragedy. If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, or if you are looking for resources for a child who has witnessed domestic violence, call the Rhode Island statewide Helpline for 24-hour support and information at 800-494-8100.

Calling 911 if you suspect or witness abuse is an important step to take, but there are many other ways to help. If you know or suspect that someone in your life is a victim of domestic violence, you can help that person stay safe. Listen, and express your concerns without judgment. Ask the person what you can do for them, and check in consistently. Help the person create a plan that will keep them safe when abuse occurs, and connect them with local resources. Additional information can be found at ricadv.org.

About the RICADV:

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) is an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. The RICADV was formed in 1979 to support and assist the domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island. The organization provides leadership to its member agencies, strives to create justice for victims, and raises awareness on the issue of domestic violence in Rhode Island. The RICADV’s network of member agencies provides a wide array of services for victims, including 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.

About Sojourner House:

Sojourner House is a comprehensive domestic violence and sexual assault agency, serving Providence and northern Rhode Island. Sojourner House’s mission is to promote healthy relationships by providing culturally sensitive support, advocacy, and education for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence; and to effect systems change. Sojourner House is a member of the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence and provides safe shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, the Providence metro area’s only drop-in advocacy and resource center, Rhode Island’s only shelters for male victims of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking, support and advocacy for children who witness domestic violence, immigration advocacy, free HIV testing and support, and prevention education programs for students. For more information, visit sojournerri.org.

  1. 2018 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook. 2018. Providence, RI: Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.
  2. Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2019.
  3. CDC-Kaiser ACE Study. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html.
  4. University of Washington School of Medicine. DV Child Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://depts.washington.edu/hcsats/PDF/TF-%20CBT/pages/psychoeducation.html.

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