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Jennifer was 18 years old when she was killed. She was a unique young woman who was fiercely protective of her friends, loving, funny and individualistic. She was also sometimes sad, mad and upset that the world could be so unfair. She, like many, felt different from her peers. When she met her boyfriend, Justin, she felt like he could understand her because he was different too. They dated for 2 1/2 years. During those years there were many bright highs and dark lows.
From the start, there were red flags. Justin began telling Jennifer who she could talk to and what she could wear. Over time, he was getting in trouble at school, at home and then with the law. His family worked really hard to get him the help he needed. Jennifer's mom was desperate for help for her too. But for both of them professionals fell short.
Over time, Jennifer and Justin fought more and the verbal and psychological abuse became severe. Jennifer was not a 100% perfect partner but she had a helping spirit. However, Justin began to isolate her from friends and family. He alienated people to the degree that they found it hard to be around the two of them. All of her time had to be his. He told Jennifer that she was the only one who could save him from all his troubles. Jennifer believed him. When he became really angry that she would go against his wishes he would attempt to kill himself. He didn't want to die, he was using it to manipulate her. Everything in Jennifer's life was going downhill; her grades suffered, her friendships ended, her trust with her family She lost herself.
-----Photo on left of lock and chain taken by Jennifer Crecente
In 2005, Justin went to jail for 6 months. Jennifer was like a different person, she was back. So much of what she lost, she regained. Maybe hope was attainable after all. During this time she wrote this poem titled Butterfly about him.
Before I met you I was a beautiful butterfly.
I was free to soar anywhere I pleased.
There was lots of bliss. freedom came in bulk.
But, there you were, the stupid little boy.
And there was your stupid butterfly net, the little boy who tore off my wings.
You complicated my life, you kept me busy,
I was your entertainment, your muse.
You took away my brilliance, my happiness, my ability to soar.
I wasn’t happy then.
Now I have escaped. I have left you behind.
I am the beautiful butterfly in all the pictures,
Grew new and even more brilliant wings.
I can soar higher and more elegantly than ever before.
I am free and I feel better than better
I know I can be a better me on my own, a bigger more important me,
All thanks to you.
Yes, thanks to you, my wings are brighter and they glow more than ever now.
Because I know I don’t need an angry little boy like you to take my free time away.
----Jennifer Crecente 2005
In early 2006, Justin was released from jail. Jennifer felt she should help him stay clean and out of trouble, just as friends. Her friends and family were desperately trying to help her see that she was in danger. Jennifer's mom asked multiple professionals to help reach her daughter but they just didn't think it was serious because it wasn't a punch or a kick. Jennifer felt like she could always get out of any situation. She thought she was bulletproof. Over the next 6 weeks, all that she had gained, she lost yet again. She was right back under his thumb.
By the second week of February, several serious incidents happened. The abuse escalated to being physical and on Valentine's Day Jennifer pulled away from Justin. But only a day later, she went with Justin to go look at a used car he knew of because she was looking for one.
They returned through a short cut in a wooded area. At some point Justin injured Jennifer's arm with a knife. In the woods he had hidden a sawed off shotgun. He made her get on her knees and shot her in the back of her head.
She died instantly. She was considered missing until the next night when a passerby found her.
Justin took a plea deal of 35 years and will be eligible for parole in 2023 after serving half of his sentence. There were two other people involved in the murder who were not taken to trial. Afterward, it came out that he had been planning on killing Jennifer for at least 9 months. It was not a crime of passion. It's very hard to understand why he chose to murder one of the few people who stood by him.
Even though Jennifer was independent, vocal when upset and fiercely protective of those she loved, she did not protect herself. It's not her fault that she was killed! But we also want to stress that if your gut is telling you something is wrong, then something is wrong and you should protect yourself.
Jennifer was a passionate and strong-minded young woman. But as mentioned above, she could be pretty intense. The reason that it is important to know that is because, often, in the media and online people are portrayed as never having done one bad thing in their entire lives, or they're portrayed as being very weak. And that can make you feel like you have nothing in common with her and that it could never happen to you. But if you are in an abusive relationship, it can.
In addition, In our culture we rarely talk about why the abuser hurts people or that they are human. It's a difficult topic. But if you are worried you may be abusive and need help, these resources are for you too. It's important to get help now. It's vital that we all work toward stopping dating violence.
www.loveisrespect.org is a wonderful place to start.
Jennifer, age 3, and her mom
Jennifer Crecente 2005
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