The glowing faces of saints stared at Sade Sanchez as dozens of neighbors, friends and family in Bushwick held each other on Tuesday night behind a ring of religious candles circling a framed portrait of the murdered 24-year-old mother of two.
Sanchez was fatally shot by her ex-boyfriend while walking home with her mother and a friend late Sunday night. On Oct. 9, those who knew her held a vigil in her honor and to shed light on the crisis that is domestic violence in America.
“We are failing victims of domestic violence,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez at a podium placed at the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Menahan Street — close to Sanchez’s home. An emotional Velasquez said that Sanchez’s death was preventable; she had taken all of the right steps after leaving her boyfriend of four years, Gabriel Rivera, when he started becoming physically abusive.
Sanchez had filed numerous police protection reports against Rivera and had an order of protection, according to the victim’s mother Cynthia Santos. But it wasn’t enough.
According to neighbors, Rivera had been stalking and harassing the young mother outside of her home for a month before deciding to hide behind a parked car on Menahan Street and shooting Sanchez five times.
“The system failed my daughter,” Santos said.
According to a 2017 report from the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the number of orders of protection required to be reported in the state protective order registry reached a five-year high. Nationally, one in three women and one in four men has experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. Over half of the women murdered in the United States are killed by a current or former romantic partner.
Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, Congresswoman Velasquez and Robert Camacho of Brooklyn Community Board 4 all spoke about how the public and the government should understand the gravity of domestic violence, which it does not appear to be doing.
They pointed out the stalled effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to renew The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the first comprehensive piece of legislation passed to end violence against women, which will expire on Dec. 7. Not a single Republican, the party that controls the chamber, has supported its renewal.
Camacho tearfully called out to the men in the huddling crowd around the podium.
“No means no,” he said. “Bushwick knows better than this.”