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Greenwich Woman's Death Prompts Police Warning

In the wake of the stabbing death of former Greenwich resident Sarah Coit, a Greenwich Police Officer is asking victims to report dating violence. It remains an underreported crime, Sgt. Brent Reeves said, and notifying police could help avert further incidents.

“There’s still people out there in the public who still ask the question, ‘why didn’t she leave’ or ‘why did she stay with this person,’ ”  Reeves said. “And they still don’t understand the barriers that exist for people leaving. There’s a public and social stigma of reporting it. One of the first questions we’re asked is, ‘Is this going to be in the paper?’ ”

Sarah Coit, who attended Greenwich High School, was found dead in her New York City apartment early Sunday. Her live-in boyfriend, Raul Barrera, has been charged with second-degree murder. Barrera had a record of seven prior domestic violence incidents with former girlfriends. According to published reports, Coit planned to leave him.

Reeves said domestic violence and dating violence are interrelated and cyclical, and it’s important to work to break the cycle. “This kind of abuse is often a learned behavior,” he said. “If you have a father that’s an abuser, you may end up being an abuser, or if your mother was abused, you may be inadvertently attracting male abusers, because that’s what you’re familiar with.”

Though not all abusers or victims come from a background of domestic violence, investigations and arrests still help end cycles of abuse, says Reeves. “Mandatory arrests of domestic violence are not to break up families, it’s a system in place to keep families together to create a healthier environment for them to co-exist, and children will see [violence] as something that’s not acceptable, and then hopefully won’t engage in that behavior,” he said. “For people who read about, it can have a similar effect.”

Reeves said a victim’s behavior can be a good indicator of the possibility of dating violence. They may exhibit isolating behavior, have strange bruising, wear clothes inappropriate for the season to cover marks and make continual excuses, or they may have to ask permission from a boyfriend or girlfriend before socializing. Specific to teen dating, Reeves says, in the advent of technology and social networking, constant contact, checking in and control of a person’s online presence are also possible indicators of abuse.

YWCA Greenwich recently was awarded a $5,000 grant to give teen dating violence training sessions for public school teachers, social workers, guidance counselors and nurses. The sessions will instruct how to recognize and address physically and emotionally dangerous teen dating relationships.

YNet, a youth leadership program given in partnership with Greenwich High School, works to prevent dating violence. On May 21 at Central Middle School, YNet will hold a Frisbee tournament to raise money for programs. For more information, contact Meredith Gold at (203) 869-6501, ext. 176.

Do you think enough is being done in the community and schools to prevent dating violence? Comment below or send your responses to ahelhoski@mainstreetconnect.us .

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