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Dear Jennifer …

Out of the 246 intimate partner homicides in Connecticut during the years 2000-2017, 213 were women. That means 87 percent of the victims of intimate partner homicides are women in my home state. The most recent crime making headlines is the disappearance of a woman named Jennifer Dulos. Her husband, Fotis Dulos, was charged with her murder earlier this month. Reading articles about the case compelled me to write a letter to her. I know she can’t read it, but her story is real. Husbands abusing their wives is real. Husbands getting away with these behaviors and continuing their abuse in our flawed court system is real. Thankfully most cases don’t end in murder, but many do end with financial and mental abuse.

____________________

Dear Jennifer,

You were a mother, a daughter, a writer, a good woman, and a member of the community. I know that you had enough of the abuse you faced at the hands of your husband – infidelity, intimidation, threats, and manipulations. So, you did one of the hardest things a woman can do … leave him. He kept you in court for years which is also known as post-separation abuse. I’m sure he dragged your name through the mud, but I know you felt relief living without him under the same roof. I hope you learned how to sleep peacefully and love yourself. And I hope your children grow up knowing you fought hard and strong. I’m sorry your life is over, but I’m glad your story is being shared loudly.

There is no truer word to describe you than victim. I know you’d probably hate that term, but here we are. Your husband likely committed many crimes throughout his lifetime, but killing his children’s mother was his most abhorrent offense. Didn’t the judge know that between 50 percent and 75 percent of domestic violence homicides happen at the point of separation or after [the victim] has already left [her abuser]?

Jennifer, I’m sorry. You were in the danger zone. I’m sure you had the best attorney money could buy. I always thought the more money you have, the safer you’d be. But your case shows me that if someone is obsessed with control and winning, all the money in the world won’t buy safety. How did your husband win? By taking your life. You’re now silenced forever. That was his goal. He took your power.

And it goes for so many women in our home state, let alone the entire United States of America.

I’m sorry you are no longer here to be a mother to your five children. And I’m sorry that he won. You are strong and brave. I admire you. I hope your story helps to change family-court laws, especially in our home state. This didn’t have to happen. You played by the rules. Fotis didn’t. I’m sorry.

Yours respectfully,

JoAnna Bennett

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JoAnna Bennetthttps://obriencg.com/blog/
I’m a working single mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life. OCG is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do this so well because we get to know our clients, listen to their reasons for existing, and share their message loudly and proudly.
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Laura Staley

This letter has taken my breath away, Joanna. I left and lived. I constantly feared that one day my ex-husband would be physically violent towards me and one day he was (he was a controlling narcissist who was unfaithful). Only one time he shoved me into a wall (that was one time-physical abuse- inserted into thousands of ways he belittled, demeaned me-). He told my children after the shoving into the wall incident (he never apologized to me): “What I did to your mom was wrong. That’s not how we roll.” That’s it. I heard him from the top of the stairs as they were heading out the door to go to school. (They were both in high school at this time point.) I required an award-winning lawyer and while my ex engaged in a great deal of “post separation abuse” in emails, texts, and phone calls( which all went directly to my attorney), I signed my emancipation papers (what I will forever call my “divorce papers”)10 months after I demanded that he leave our family home (same day I drove my daughter to her first day of college after the final “incident” that directly impacted my daughter-he was not physical violence-another issue emerged). My ex and I have no communication. I earned some spousal support which I have renamed my annuity for I was a full-time parent in every way (often experienced myself as a single mother in actions).

I obviously feel compelled to speak my truth here in this reply as I have so often want to hide these hard truths in some box on a shelf of what actually transpired. Not anymore. I now know my value from deep inside myself. I relocated to a different state. I am flourishing in a Bonus Round of Being Alive. I know I am fortunate to be vibrantly alive from my soul. (I’m not just “going through the motions of living”) I know this in every cell of my body.

May we heighten awareness and shift the paradigms that keep women suppressing their truths or disempowered when they finally tell the hard truths and the legal system remains “tongue-tied” about these truths. May the blindness end. May the misunderstandings end. These are hard truths that simply MUST be spoken. May deep, cataclysmic shifts happen. May people rise strong and free. May healing and transformations continue.

Thank you for your courage in writing this letter to Jennifer. Thank you for being your brave self. I’m honored to know you. I’m a writer, too.

Noemi Zarb

‘May we heighten awareness and shift the paradigms that keep women suppressing their truths or disempowered when they finally tell the hard truths and the legal system remains “tongue-tied” about these truths. May the blindness end. May the misunderstandings end. These are hard truths that simply MUST be spoken. May deep, cataclysmic shifts happen. May people rise strong and free. May healing and transformations continue.’

I don’t think Laura’s comments can be bettered. Sadly, the tragic escalation of femicide is a harrowing reality all over the world and which I feel is inextricably linked to the total and utter assault on the sacredness of family. I am too upset and disturbed to comment much more.

Nevertheless, without wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I would like to hear the honest voice of a man who has beaten, abused even killed the woman he lived with, slept with, mothered his own children. Actually much more than one. What am I supposed to understand? And I want to go beyond their heinous acts as a manifestation of bullying power, aggression, revenge and weakness.

As for the judicial systems I really have no words to express my disgust at the ongoing travesty of justice the world over.

Thank you, JoAnna for sharing your powerful letter.

Kat O'Keefe-Kanavos

Joanna this is such a moving piece, but what touched me most was how deeply it touched you. You wrote a moving letter to a dead woman with whom you had had no contact, other than a heart connection. You empower my faith in humanity. You
just gave her life again through WORD. Thank you.

Lynn Forrester-Pitocco

Blessings Joanna, very moving piece and as a retired police officer who handled so many domestic violence cases, my heart was always torn up by the looks on children’s faces who watched their mommy being abused by the father they too were so much afraid of. I hope that this issue comes to light to save the lives of many women and children, especiall during post separation,

Laura Mikolaitis

Joanna, this letter to Jennifer is beautifully written. Living in New England (MA), I’m aware of this case. It is heartbreaking, and I feel for the children who have lost their mother. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt words with us and for paying homage to this strong and courageous woman.

Helen Heinmiller
Helen Heinmiller

Beautiful, raw and honest Joanna! Thanks for giving this tragedy a voice.

Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.

Oh my, Joanna…. you’ve touched me with this piece more than you know. I’ve been following this story for a while and I just saw in the news today that this abuser took the easy way out. I can’t say anything more or better than Laura Staley did as I have not experienced the pain and fear that she describes. I can only say that, as someone who works with child victims, we all need your voices. Thank you for your courage and your resolve. You’ll never know how many people will feel the ripples you put out there.

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