Breaking the Silence
addressing domestic abuse
Longtime Wilton resident I will call Victoria was verbally, physically, and sexually abused by her husband for more than ten years. Her neighbors never heard a thing. In the suburbs, this kind of abuse is often tucked away, hidden at the end of winding driveways, muffled by acres of trees.
Domestic violence is not limited to large cities or low-income apartment complexes. It happens in communities like Wilton. Financial stress may exacerbate abuse, but domestic violence occurs across socio-economic boundaries, according to Jennifer McNamara, the new president of the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force. “People think domestic violence doesn’t happen here, but it does,” she said.
Prior to her marriage, Victoria was a strong, independent career woman. She and her husband both came from blue-collar families and were on the fast track to professional success. “We were making it big,” she said. “We had so much.” The abuse began as demeaning, cutting criticisms. Victoria’s husband called her stupid, ugly, fat, and lazy. The couple stopped socializing, and she became estranged from her friends, trapped at home. The physical violence began in the second year of their marriage, when Victoria was pregnant with her first child. Her husband would pull her hair, hit her, and throw her against the wall. “I always anticipated his violence,” she said. Their children witnessed the abuse. “I felt trapped,” Victoria said. “When I could, I tried to keep the peace. I believed every apology.”
By elementary school, Victoria’s children were exhibiting quick tempers and performing poorly in school. One of her children, at age 11, pushed her up against the wall. Victoria’s husband refused to attend marriage or family counseling. “Therapy is for the weak,” he said.
After one particularly violent incident, more than a decade into their marriage, Victoria knew it was time to get out, but she didn’t have access to money. Her husband scrutinized the credit-card statements, so Victoria formulated an escape plan with the help of friends. She began getting cash back at the grocery store and hiding it away, saving $20 or $40 at a time. After almost a year of secretly saving money, Victoria told her husband in the safety of a public place that she wanted a divorce. “It was the only way to protect myself and my children,” she said.
Wilton’s DVTF was launched seven years ago to help coordinate local support for abuse victims like Victoria. Task-force members work closely with the Wilton Police to improve the effectiveness of officers’ responses to domestic-violence calls. Wilton police were called to about 100 family-related incidents in 2010, about. Roughly 40 percent of those calls resulted in the criminal arrests of 37 offenders.
Victoria admitted she was initially too frightened to call the police. “I thought people who were abused had done something to cause their abuse,” she said. Now she collaborates with the local police. “The officers are aware of my children’s cell-phone numbers,” Victoria said. “When they make a phone call to the police, they don’t have to say anything; the officers know it’s a domestic call.”
Victoria’s divorce took 18 difficult months. Today, she’s a different person. She has re-entered the work force and, after taking computer classes at a community college, reclaimed her professional career. Victoria also helps other women who are dealing with domestic abuse. “I will never be in an abusive relationship again,” she said. “My children and I can now sleep comfortably. I can honestly say I’m a survivor; I am no longer a victim.”
For more information about the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force, contact Jennifer McNamara at firstname.lastname@example.org.