NEW BRITAIN - In the evening quiet on Burritt Street, Shania told a crowd of dozens that the father of her son had dragged her down a flight of stairs by her braids.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone,” of the abuse she had suffered in the relationship, she said. “I was being hauled away in a stretcher still saying I didn’t want to press charges,” she added.
As part of the Prudence Crandall Center’s annual “Silent No More Candlelight Vigil” Wednesday night, Shania was one of many in attendance whose life had been touched by domestic violence. But she was also one of many whose lives had been restored by the services offered at the center.
The point of the vigil is to honor those who have died in the past year from domestic violence and bring awareness to an issue that is often hidden in the shadows, much like Shania’s story, said Prudence Crandall Executive Director Barbara Damon. There are people who are not safe in their own homes tonight, Damon told the crowd which included survivors, families and friends who have lost someone to domestic violence, city dignitaries and volunteers. “We also know that there are thousands of people who may not know help is available,” Damon said.
The center provides emergency shelter, transitional and supportive housing and services to residents in New Britain, Bristol, Berlin, Kensington, Burlington, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington and Terryville whose lives are affected by domestic violence. Among the guests were retired Newington Detective Michael Rugens and Jim McNair who were representing the Ryan T. Lee Memorial Foundation which sponsored the event.
For Rugens, it was an opportunity to support the foundation for which he volunteers and a time to remember his friend and co-worker Newington Officer Ciara McDermott who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2005. Foundation members took a “Hope Tour” of Prudence Crandall’s facility and decided to sponsor the event. “I was impressed by what they were doing,” Rugens said “This is one way we could help out.”
During the program a friend of Yasheeka Grant, a city woman who was killed by her husband Patrick Miles in late March, spoke up to discuss her loss. “I’m hurt,” the woman said. “I’m lost. I don’t understand, we will never understand.”
Grant’s name was among those read to honor the state residents who have died in the past year from domestic violence. On average, Connecticut sees about 14 domestic violence deaths a year. Organizers also included Patricia Torbicki who was shot and killed by her husband who also wounded himself. He is still hospitalized and has not yet been charged with the murder.
There were also stories of hope and rejuvenation. Sara’s boyfriend didn’t become violent until she was pregnant with his child. Her life was a never-ending grind of trying to deal with the abuse while raising a young daughter diagnosed with autism. “A year ago myself and my daughter stood in this crowd,” she said. “I was scared, I was overwhelmed about what the future held for us.”
She had found the courage to leave her child’s father after a nurse at the emergency department discreetly slipped her a card with the center’s number. “I took the scariest step in my life and left in a taxi,” she said. “At Prudence Crandall I felt safe for the first time in years.”
Anyone who is seeking help with domestic violence can call the 24-hour hotline at 888-794-2900.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.