03/25/09 — The face of domestic violence

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The face of domestic violence

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 25, 2009 1:46 PM

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Marcela Rodriguez

The face of domestic violence

Marcela Rodriguez was a quiet, soft-spoken 24-year-old woman with three children who was liked by all who met her.

She, along with her children, Eric Montenegro, 7, Jacquelin Perez, 2, and Jorge Perez, 3, had been in an abusive situation and eventually got up the courage to leave. But it caught up with her Monday when she was shot and killed.

Marcela and the children seemed to be getting their lives back on track, with a new home and new future.

She and the children spent two months in Wayne County's domestic violence shelter and were receiving services and support, said Milton Coston, Wayne Uplift domestic violence program director.

Marcela came to the shelter after being assaulted several times by her children's father, Fransico Montenegro, in 2008.

"No one knew what to do with her," said Coston, "because there were no Spanish-speaking domestic violence services in Duplin County, where she lived. So they called our office."

While in the shelter, Marcela and her children received support services from Social Services. She was frightened, but relieved that she was out of that situation, Coston said.

"Marcela was a person who had made up her mind that she wasn't going to get abused anymore," said Coston. "She refused to go back, even though he kept threatening that he was going to kill her one day."

Coston said Marcela and her children were on their way to a good life. He had seen her grow and develop a lot in the nine months she was in the domestic violence program.

"This was her first time she really had a chance to live because she had been under (Montenegro's) control and abuse almost her whole young adult life," said Coston.

Her biggest concern was the emotional damage that had been done to Eric, who has been in therapeutic foster care for almost six months, according to Coston, due to the abuse he received and the attacks on his mother that he witnessed.

"She worked really hard with psychological services to make sure he got treatment," he said.

When Coston learned of Marcela's death, he was shocked at first.

"But he had been threatening her for the past nine months, so on one part I was not so shocked," he said.

Coston said anytime something like this happens, it's natural to "reflect and ask is there anything else we could have done. We had done everything that we could have possibly done with court, a restraining order, providing her a safe place, reporting to Social Services."

"In reality, she was a young lady who never got a chance to grow up."

Coston said that Marcela's family doesn't have the money to bury her. So the Wayne Uplift domestic violence program is collecting money to help out. Anyone wanting to make a donation may drop it off at the office at 1719 E. Ash St. Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The domestic violence program handles about 35 cases a month, according to Coston. At any one time, the shelter has at least one resident and sometimes as many as 15.