PORTSMOUTH — Here’s a press statement by Lori DiPersio, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, and Deborah DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, regarding the murder in Portsmouth Wednesday of Terry L. Chiodo:
“First and foremost, our hearts go out to the family, friends and community of Terry L. Chiodo. While her death marks the first murder to occur in Portsmouth in a decade and Rhode Island’s first domestic violence murder in 2013, it is also a stark reminder that we have a long way to go to achieve a Rhode Island that is free of domestic violence.
“Even in a community that is known for its safety, domestic violence does happen behind closed doors every day by abusers who seek to control their partners— murder is often their final act of abuse. It is important to remember that these acts are not isolated incidents; they are part of a public health crisis whether they happen in the home or on a bus.
“Domestic violence is, however, preventable; it escalates to the point of murder because our system has failed to either keep a victim safe or hold an abuser accountable. In this case, we know that the perpetrator and ex-husband of Chiodo, Christopher James, has a lengthy criminal record and history of domestic violence charges that were dismissed.
“We commend the bravery of two bystanders who took action to detain James and hope the other victims — the passengers and driver of the bus — recover from this tragedy. Unfortunately, bystanders are often hurt when domestic violence situations escalate and we urge all Rhode Islanders to join us in saying NO MORE to this kind of abuse.
“We also commend the Portsmouth police for identifying this fatal stabbing as a domestic violence murder. It is our responsibility as a community to address this abuse and the high dismissal rates of domestic violence cases in general. James had several cases of domestic abuse dismissed during the last two decades and had been arrested 20 times in different cities throughout Rhode Island.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recognizes that intimate partner violence [and domestic violence] is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States—more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.1 And in Rhode Island, 29.9 percent of women and 19.3 percent of men, experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime.
“To prevent another tragedy, we all must make a commitment to reach out to anyone who we suspect is in an abusive situation: listen and express your concerns without judging; ask “what can I do to help;” and stay supportive of the partner being abused, even if you disagree with her/his choices.
“Domestic violence happens in every community, and no one is immune to it. The good news is that help is available. There are six local domestic violence agencies in our state that provide a wide array of services, including 24 hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups and assistance with the legal system. All Rhode Islanders should remember that if they hear or see someone being hurt to call 911 immediately and if they or someone they know needs support to call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100.”