Last Thursday, the Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC) hosted their tenth annual , a fundraiser that in its first nine years, raised over one million dollars to support the DVCC. While the first luncheon drew 126 people to the Birchwood Country Club in Westport, this year’s program nearly filled the ballroom at the .
“Numbers do matter,” Rachelle Kucera Mehra, DVCC Executive Director said. “In the past twelve months, we’ve served 3,860 individuals, Peaceworks has presented to over 25,000 children, and 422 women and children, and one man, have been sheltered in our safe houses. That’s one in ten lives that DVCC has directly impacted in mid-Fairfield County.”
This year’s featured speaker was actress and advocate Meredith Baxter, best known for portraying Elyse Keaton on “Family Ties.”
“Domestic violence is everywhere and silence allows it to continue — kids don’t talk about it, women don’t talk about it,” Baxter said. “We need to raise our threshold of what we find acceptable”
Baxter’s off-screen life stood in stark contrast to her on-screen role as matriarch of television’s most picture-perfect families. In private, she was struggling with an abusive marriage, emotional scars, and alcohol abuse.
“People would say, you have the model life,”” Baxter said. “You don’t say anything. I had too much to protect.”
While she cannot pinpoint a single epiphany that prompted her to leave her marriage, the words of one of her children provided an impetus.
“It was one more Thanksgiving being shredded, I was crying and my oldest daughter said, “What are you waiting for?”— at one point, I said, “I’m not going to do this anymore” and that opened the door and set things in motion,” Baxter said. “I was very aware of my daughters looking at me and thinking that was what it meant to be a mother. I couldn’t stand that my sons were watching.”
Baxter recently published her memoir “Untied” chronicling her journey.
“I knew that even if I leave, if I’m thinking the same way, I’m going to make the same decisions again. I had to reeducate myself,” Baxter said.
Raised by a distant mother who insisted her children call her by her stage name, Baxter traces the pattern of abuse in her life to these early scars.
“I learned that my feelings and my needs didn’t matter…I was neither loved nor lovable,” Baxter said. “My feelings were not available to me for decades….Abuse when we’re little leaves us ripe for abuse down the road.”
Baxter spoke frankly to the crowd at the Voices of Courage luncheon — always careful to avoid sensationalism and focus instead on her feelings and her path to finding a healthy sense of self-worth that has translated into a healthy relationship.
“Let go of your secrets, look for the stories you tell yourself, be rigorously truthful,” Baxter said. “Tell other victims about the DVCC.”