Sunset Park mourns death in domestic violence incident
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez: “I join the entire Sunset Park Community in mourning this tragic loss”
A tragic killing in Sunset Park Friday is a grim reminder of the threat of domestic violence.
Delma Mateo, 61, originally of Puerto Rico, was found in the hallway of an apartment building on the fourth floor of 5320 6th Ave. with cuts to her head, neck and upper torso at approximately 2 a.m. on Friday.
Neighbors had heard fighting inside the apartment on the fourth floor and contacted the police. After police responded, Mateo’s boyfriend, Felix Santiago, 57, was discovered dead outside on the ground near the building with a knife near his body. The NYPD said they believed that Santiago took his own life after murdering Mateo.
“Tragically, a life has been taken due to unbridled and continued domestic violence. My heart is broken for the family, friends, and neighbors who cherished Ms. Mateo,” said U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez in a public statement Wednesday.
The New York Post reported Saturday that Santiago suffered from schizophrenia and possible drug abuse. Friends of Mateo told the Post that Santiago was verbally abusive to Mateo daily and frequently belittled her appearance, and that sometimes the aggression led to physical violence.
“I join the entire Sunset Park community in mourning this tragic loss,” said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
“Too often, victims of domestic violence live in fear of seeking help and are not aware of the tools available that could change their situation,” said Rep. Velazquez. “It is crucial that we educate the public on the robust protections and services that are available to victims and survivors of domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act.”
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994 and reauthorized by Biden on March 15 after multiple overturned provisions and renewals of the act in the early 2000s and 2010s.
“In addition to VAWA, we must continue to develop new strategies that will provide a roadmap to guide the federal government to create a society where survivors are supported, and victims can bring their harm-doers to justice.”
“There are still improvements that need to be made to provide more safeguards to prevent any more tragic loss of life. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this tragedy reaffirms that we must do more to intervene with resources and awareness before tragedy strikes.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of legislation that is aimed to comprehensively strengthen the protections of victims of domestic violence. Among other things, the bills ensures the seizure of firearms belonging to abusive domestic partners if a judge has determined that possession remains a danger, and mandates that a criminal or family court judge inquire about a defendant’s possession of a firearm when Orders of Protection – measures that allow for the safeguard of victims of abuse harassment, threats or intimidation – have been issued.
Additionally, the bills require that insurance companies give survivors alternative contact information to access claims and benefits, and requires utility companies allow that survivors opt-out of shared contracts without penalty.
Gov. Hochul spoke Wednesday with community leaders at Union Settlement, a nonprofit that provides resources to survivors in East Harlem. She shared a personal connection to the issue of domestic violence and how it affected her immediate family.
“Despite the efforts of people like my mother and others, there’s still violence in homes – whether it’s physical, emotional – it has not stopped,” said Gov. Hochul. “And that’s why as Governor, I’ve made this one of my top priorities.”
Hochul’s mother was physically and emotionally abused by her father in early childhood. Later, she became a social worker after acquired her college degree with six children at home, finally co-founding the Eerie County Commission on Domestic Violence and helping start the first domestic violence home, Haven House.
“My mother became an advocate, a champion,” said Gov. Hochul.
“So, I’m proud to say, as I stand here, I do feel my mother’s spirit. My mother would be happy to know that her daughter is continuing the work she began when I was back in college, and I know that my own daughter will carry the torch passed to us from our mother, my mother and her grandmother, and my own little granddaughter, Sophia, will know the work that my mother did as well. We’re going to carry this on, not just through my family, but hopefully through all families, that we all feel committed toward the common cause of lifting people up, those who’ve been in situations that none of us want to find ourselves in. Having that empathy, that sense of purpose that a Governor can convey, but also the people on the ground here can convey.”
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