Murder victim Wanda Rosa and her son, Ethan

Wanda Rosa and her son, Ethan, then 4.

We live in a violent country. From mass shootings to domestic abuse and everything in between, the news is fraught with horrible stories of innocent victims being gunned down, strangled, beaten to death, or otherwise maimed.

Here in Massachusetts, domestic violence deaths drastically increased post-COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, 26 such homicides were reported, a more than 40% increase over the previous year, according to statistics from Jane Doe Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit. In 2021, there were 15.

The scourge of domestic homicide played out on a public stage in Salem Superior Court on Thursday, when Emilio DeLarosa was convicted of the 2016 first-degree murder of his then 29-year-old girlfriend, Wanda Rosa, of Methuen. That was pre-pandemic, but it illustrates the worst potential outcome.

This is a very complicated problem.

Victims of domestic violence who don’t leave their attackers, or who refuse to testify in court, are stuck in a whirlpool of conflicting emotions. It is extremely difficult for women, or men, to leave an abusive relationship.

“Because domestic violence affects every aspect of a person’s life, deciding to end a relationship and escape abuse can be more difficult than one would think,” Healing Abuse, Working for Change — a North Shore-based domestic violence nonprofit — states on its website.

“Victims often begin to believe they deserve the poor treatment they receive from loved ones.”

Tragically, this is how Wanda Rosa found herself in bed with her son, Ethan, and his father, Emilio DeLarosa, on the night of Sept. 12, 2016. Emilio previously served four years in prison for abusing her and also violated the terms of his probation. She had an active no-abuse order against him, and previously filed and dropped restraining orders.

That was the night he “snapped,” he testified in court, and choked and strangled his girlfriend to death.

That was also the night Ethan witnessed his mother’s murder —and lost his father.

“I was trying to pull him off her,” the 11-year-old, who is now a fifth-grader in Lawrence, bravely testified in court.

To say justice was served with DeLarosa’s incarceration of life without parole per Massachusetts law is doing a disservice to the memory of Wanda Rosa. Justice would have been served if there had been proper intervention prior to that murderous outrage.

Legislators have filed 70 bills aimed at tightening domestic violence laws. Let’s hope they pay close attention.

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