That’s 866-348-9473, which brings you to the 24-hour crisis line for WISE, who — in the organization’s own words — “leads the Upper Valley to end gender-based violence through survivor-centered advocacy, prevention, education and mobilization for social change.”
I thought it was important to lift up the number in the wake of this week’s murder-suicide in Haverhill. Police said Robert Taylor, 45, shot and killed Chrystal Lewis, 44, in her Haverhill home before turning the gun on himself. They had been dating for several years, but Lewis ended the relationship sometime in July, police said.
Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote in the Valley News in June 2015, when Windsor resident Molly Helland, 23, was killed after her estranged boyfriend shot her outside her home. Jason Kendall, 27, later shot and killed himself, authorities said. I bolded certain areas of the article for this post.
A group of coworkers gathered at the Windsor Diner Wednesday night grabbed a quick bite to eat before a sobering task: Creating dozens of purple ribbons, the color of domestic violence awareness, to honor their friend and colleague, Molly Helland.
The tragic news this week that Helland, 23, was gunned down by her estranged boyfriend has struck the women deeply — and they said the specter of domestic violence is all too familiar. Out of four women who talked to a reporter, two said they were survivors of domestic abuse, and another woman, Patti Hutchins, said Helland was the second friend she had lost to such violence.
“I never dreamed there’d be one,” Hutchins said.
Helland’s death follows several similar homicides in the Upper Valley in recent years, including the shooting deaths of Kelly Robarge in Charlestown in 2013 and Lebanon High School teacher Natalie Perriello in 2012. The women’s husbands were both convicted of murder and are serving sentences that could keep them in prison for life.
Officials and experts echoed the women’s assessment that domestic violence is all too common. Abby Tassel, assistant director WISE, the Upper Valley nonprofit that provides crisis counseling and other services, said that many hundreds of domestic violence cases in the region go unnoticed in the public eye. She said WISE works with roughly 1,100 victims a year, and “we think we’re not even scratching the surface.”
“It is so widespread and prevalent,” Tassel said, “and while we are all blessed to live in a part of the world that’s perceived of as being safe, I think this is a reminder that … there are a lot of people who are having a very different experience.”
Windsor Police Chief William Sampson said that unlike some other types of crime, domestic violence does not ebb and flow with the overall rate of criminal activity, nor does it discriminate along socioeconomic lines.
“It’s truly prevalent everywhere,” he said.
(Speaking) generally and not about Helland’s death in particular, Tassel said that domestic violence usually means a “pattern of power and control tactics on the part of one person to control the other.”
“So for the abuser, the person using those tactics, the other person leaving is the ultimate lack of power and control, so this is why leaving is so dangerous,” Tassel said.
Tassel stressed that while the “responsibility for the violence falls squarely on the shoulders of the (perpetrator),” she said WISE and other organizations work with victims to come up with a step-by-step plan to safely leave a relationship, and that WISE respects a victim’s “expertise in her situation, because she’s going to know better than anyone what is going to be safe or what is going to be dangerous.”
O’Neil echoed that point.
“What can be hard for family and friends and what sometimes may seem counterintuitive is trusting the victim when she is making choices to not move out of the relationship when other people may think she should be moving out of it, and the bind that victims can be in sometimes from family and friends who are so well-meaning,” O’Neil said.
Safety plans may include a protective or restraining order. Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said in an email that it’s “quite common” for women to get a restraining order during night or weekend hours because police departments have judge’s phone numbers, “but unless a woman called a police department, our office or WISE, she may not know that,” he said, calling for more public awareness.
Tassel noted that while restraining orders may be part of a woman’s safety plan to leave a relationship, “unfortunately, having a protective order in place may not be enough protection.”
She encouraged friends and family members to contact organizations such as WISE if they think a loved one is dealing with domestic violence. It’s important to listen to that person, Tassel said, and warning signs can include extreme jealousy, isolation, controlling finances, using the children to manipulate a relationship, and more.