It was a cool night in the spring of 1940 when Mamie and her young daughter fled from her apartment for the first time. Her husband had come home drunk. Before she knew it, sloppy irritation grew to rage and he began lashing out at everyone and everything in his wake. Mamie ran as he destroyed their tenement. He had even managed to rip the sink out of the wall….

And so it went for more than a decade. He would come home inebriated and angry and Mamie would flee from his wrath. Sometimes she got away unscathed. Sometimes she didn’t. After every incident he would eventually find her and beg forgiveness. He never did hit their daughter and with that knowledge she found a way to go back time and time again. Mamie had three sisters who found themselves constantly worried, exasperated, angry and sad because they unable to convince to leave–until the day she did.

Although this story is more than a half a century old it is being relived today in every town, in every nation throughout the world. Which means there are legions of friends and family members frustrated and at a loss for what to do or how to help. If you have a friend or family member in an abusive relationship here are some things you should know:

  • Just listen! As hard as it may be, hold back on judgement. No one likes to be judged.
  • Reassure by telling them they don’t deserve this and it’s not their fault; because it isn’t and yet it’s a byproduct of the psychological damage that makes them feel like it is.
  • If you feel they are in danger –tell them! They need to hear it from a third party.
  • Make sure that they have a hotline number memorized or write it down for them on a dollar bill. Don’t give them cards or send them emails that the abuser could intercept.
  • Call often and keep asking if there is anything you can do to help. The next time may be the one time when they take you up on your offer.
  • Don’t tell them what to do–they don’t need anyone else controlling their decisions.
  • Help them come up with a get-away plan. Help them think about where they should go and what they would need. You can even help them pack a bag.
  • Don’t give up on them–keep helping even if they keep changing their mind or go back. Remember leaving isn’t easy, it often isn’t safe and it’s downright frightening.

This year in lieu of tying ribbons around Wilton Center trees, the members of Wilton Teen PeaceWorks are placing purple pinwheels in Town Center to signify the Winds of Change. Yes, 60-plus years after Mamie’s story, Domestic Violence still exists but at least today we’re talking about it, we have agencies to turn to and we have the support of our local police. These young ladies are the hope of the future, a new generation that knows every person has the right to be safe in their personal relationships.

I think Mamie would be proud.

Teen PeaceWorks members pictured above:  (Left to right):  Lizzie MacDonald, Nickia Muraskin, Kaitlin Zappaterrini, Kaitlin McNamara, Mackenzie Holmgren, Megan DiMattio, and Daniella Chavez. Bottom row:   Natalia Matuk, Haley MacDonald, Jessica Weiner 

Not included but also a member of PeaceWorks: Jo-Jo Greip and Allison Farago

If you or anyone you know are in an abusive relationship please contact the DVCC online or call the 24-hour hotline at 888.774.2900.