For Jennifer Farber-Dulos, and for all those who have a story to share
Before her May 2019 disappearance, New Canaan mom Jennifer Dulos was going through a contentious divorce and custody battle with her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos. In a 2017 filing of emergency order for full custody of their five children, Jennifer alleged her husband exhibited worsening “irrational, unsafe, threatening and controlling behavior.”
Jennifer added that on Jun. 3, 2017, Fotis “became enraged, appeared out of control and blamed me for scheduling activities for the children on a Saturday morning… I was scared and tried to leave the room. He followed me upstairs and into a bedroom, where he shut the door and blocked it so that I was trapped as he verbally attacked me and physically intimidated me.”
Jennifer also expressed concerns about Fotis recently having acquired a gun, writing in court documents, “I am terrified for my family’s safety, especially since discovering the gun, as my husband has a history of controlling, volatile and delusional behavior.”
She concluded with the following, “I know that filing for divorce and filing this motion will enrage him. I know he will retaliate by trying to harm me in some way.”
Nearly two years later, Jennifer vanished after dropping off her children at school. She was reported missing later on that night, and when police arrived at her home, they discovered blood splatter and stains in the garage as well as an obvious attempt to clean up a crime scene. Dulos’s vehicle was later found abandoned near Waveny Park in New Canaan.
Investigators believe Jennifer was the victim of a “serious physical assault” in the garage. The office of the chief medical examiner later confirmed that, given the evidence, Jennifer likely succumbed to “injuries to which he [Dr. Gill] would consider non-survivable without medical intervention.”
Last June, Fotis and his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, were arrested and charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution after they were observed on surveillance video dumping items stained with Jennifer’s blood into various trash cans along Albany Avenue in Hartford. Jennifer’s blood was also discovered on the seats of one of Fotis’s ForeGroup company trucks.
In January, Fotis, Troconis and Fotis’s civil lawyer Kent Mawhinney were all arrested again. Fotis was charged with capital murder, murder and kidnapping in connection to Jennifer’s disappearance. Troconis and Mawhinney were both charged with conspiracy to commit murder. In the detailed arrest warrant, police allege Fotis lay in wait for his estranged wife to arrive home, after which he killed her and restrained her body with zip ties in the car while he cleaned up the scene.
As a disclaimer, I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, the evidence against Fotis is glaring. Even before Jennifer’s disappearance, she wrote about how she was terrified of him. The nanny for Jennifer’s children, whose account of what she saw when she returned home the day Jennifer disappeared has been imperative to the prosecution’s case, immediately assumed Fotis was to blame. That assumption was not pulled from thin air but rather from years of intimidation and violence that lead to Jennifer’s presumed murder.
Several people in Connecticut and around the world have been captivated by the ever-developing story because it shines a light on a more widespread problem we face: domestic violence. In fact, in just one year, 33,000 calls were placed to various domestic violence hotlines in Connecticut alone, WTNH reported. In 2019, 11 women and three men were killed by their intimate partners in Connecticut.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence (or intimate partner violence) is often defined as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” The definition includes several mediums through which the abuse can occur, including, “use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of domestic violence/abuse can be occurring at any one time within the same intimate relationship.”
In a not-so-apparent episode of abuse in the relationship, experts have highlighted that the couple had together filed over 300 court motions in the months before Jennifer’s disappearance, which advocates say is a common occurrence and have termed “litigation abuse.”
“We find that abusers often file multiple things in order to drag their ex-partner into court, to do that to harass them, to be near them, to cause them financial hardship and stress,” Karen Jarmoc, the CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told The Westerly Sun in January.
According to Psychology Today, those who suffer at the hands of domestic violence often experience a decreased mental health state, which can translate to dysfunctions in all areas of a person’s life. Poor mental health and wellness can further damage a victim’s resilience, causing them to feel completely hopeless and more susceptible to suicide and other self-harm behaviors.
Jarmoc told the Middletown Press in November of last year that Jennifer’s case is representative of the fact that domestic violence knows no bounds and anyone — regardless of their sex or other demographic factors — can fall victim.
“Jennifer’s experience also highlights our clear understanding that domestic violence is a pattern of coercive and abusive behavior that crosses over all socioeconomic, religious and ethnic backgrounds and the need for us to be more aware of how these complex behaviors permeate all of society,” Jarmoc said.
According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 people per minute are physically abused by their partner, which equates to more than 10 million men and women. Domestic violence victims generally have higher rates of depression and suicidal behavior. And perhaps most concerning: Only 34% of people injured due to domestic violence incidents receive medical attention.
Domestic violence can also present itself as an incredibly complicated situation that makes it difficult for the victim to leave despite the horrible treatment that may be taking place. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the victim can often be dependent on the abuser socially and economically. Other victims rationalize that staying with their abuser is the best route to protect the family from falling apart at the seams. Others fear their concerns and allegations will not be taken seriously and that they are under the complete control of their abuser. There are a plethora of reasons why victims cannot see themselves escaping their situation, which is why it is imperative for us as outsiders to recognize these patterns and physical/mental signs that may suggest someone around us is suffering from intimate partner violence.
The difference with Jennifer, however, is that she spoke up. She moved out of Farmington after the divorce and alleged in her court documents that she feared for her life and that Fotis had already been verbally and emotionally abusive prior to her disappearance. She admitted to authorities she was terrified. But she’s still gone. Domestic violence can often go far beyond leaving the relationship and removing yourself from the situation. It can haunt sufferers forever.
Perhaps the reason why Jennifer’s story is so prevalent is because she was an affluent white mother living in a high-scale town who fell victim to a horrible crime. The circumstances support Jarmoc’s claims: Domestic violence knows no boundaries and can strike those who are believed to have their lives and relationships together. It’s important, now and in the future, that we speak up for these individuals and take their concerns seriously before it is too late.
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 CT Domestic Violence Hotline: 888-774-2900
Taylor Harton is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.