When a colleague told Kelly Dunne that there had been a murder the night before, she knew the victim was Dorothy Giunta-Cotter. “We worked with almost 1,200 women that year, but that was my immediate reaction,” said Dunne, associate director of a Massachusetts domestic violence advocacy organization. “Her case had almost every single red flag for lethality that we know from the research done on domestic violence and intimate partner homicide.”
Many saw the 2002 murder-suicide of Giunta-Cotter and her estranged husband, William Cotter, as a failure of the system to protect a battered woman, despite the fact that she had obtained restraining orders and worked with counselors, the police, and the courts to escape the situation. But Giunta-Cotter’s legacy is at work every day in a coordinated effort among those who seek to protect domestic battery victims, reports the Boston Globe. Her death forced advocates and law enforcers to rethink their handling of high-risk domestic violence cases. The result was a rapid response team that unites police, prosecutors and victim-witness advocates, probation officials, batterers’ intervention teams, and hospital staffers to prevent violence.