Domestic abuse survivor shares story to raise awareness
NAUGATUCK — The seed for Titanium Day was planted a little over four months ago. That seed sprouted on the Green when Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess proclaimed July 28 Titanium Day in Naugatuck.
The proclamation and event were inspired by domestic abuse survivor Becky Rutrough, a Naugatuck resident whose nickname “Titanium” gave the event its title. For almost 18 years, Rutrough was married to an abusive husband. In that time, she shaped appearances and was in denial, leaving her with the feeling that she described as wanting to die.
In November of 2007, after being beaten in front of her then 4-year-old son, Rutrough called the police. It was on that night the responding police officer gave her the business card of Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, a Waterbury-based nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter and free comprehensive support services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
It’s been eight and half years since Rutrough, the 2015 Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury Out of the Shadows Award recipient, first reached out to the organization. She has now made it her mission to bridge the gap between victims of domestic abuse and the community.
“[Safe Haven] is an organization that saved my life,” Rutrough said. “I didn’t have to have shelter through Safe Haven. I needed an advocate. My mind was a tangled mess. I suffered all elements of domestic abuse. They saved my life, they gave my children their mother back, and they helped me realize domestic abuse affects everybody.”
Rutrough uses every chance she gets now to tell her story in front of groups and the legislature. It is her hope that the community will become more aware that the problem of domestic abuse exists, and there is help for victims.
Executive Director of Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury Lee Schlesinger said Rutrough’s story serves as a testimonial that breaks misconceptions of who is affected by domestic abuse.
“[People] always think it’s the lesser fortunate people,” Schlesinger said. “You wouldn’t expect [Becky] to be a victim of domestic violence. We want people to know that it affects everybody. It crosses all socio-economic lines and all religious lines. It’s all around the world.”
Rutrough captivated listeners at the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls 53rd Annual Meeting back in March with her story of being in an abusive relationship — a story she retold standing in front of the gazebo on the Green last week.
It was at the United Way meeting where Hess heard Rutrough’s story for the first time and conceived the idea of holding Titanium Day. The purpose of the event is to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and promote programs like Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, which serves over 4,000 victims of domestic abuse within ten surrounding towns, including Naugatuck.
“I believe that many people in Naugatuck are unaware that this group exists for residents of Naugatuck,” Hess said. “We want the residents of Naugatuck to know if they are suffering from domestic abuse that there is help for them.”
The inaugural Titanium Day featured information on local services available as well as food, family activities, live performances and the Purple Man Beauty Contest. For a $25 entry fee, which went toward Safe Haven, male contestants dressed in purple outfits in hopes of winning round trip airfare to Chicago for two, an overnight hotel stay and dinner at Ditka’s Restaurant with former NFL coach Mike Ditka. This year’s winner was Jeffery Knight.
Rutrough is now working to spread her message. The first stop is the school system. Naugatuck High School will be having lessons on domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault added to the curriculum as a way to appropriately teach students how define the issues.
Rutrough’s next goal is to have information about Safe Haven in Naugatuck businesses.
“If business owners are as receptive as Superintendent [of Schools Sharon] Locke was when I approached her, Naugatuck will most definitely become the strongest community in all of Connecticut when it comes to empowering victims,” Rutrough said.
Standing in front of the gazebo last week, Rutrough said Naugatuck has set an example that needs to be followed by every town.
“This is the town where I became ‘Titanium.’ This is the town where we will bridge the gap between a community and its silent sufferers. Mayor Pete Hess, you are on to something here. Every town in Connecticut ought to follow suit. There should be no more domestic abuse. None,” she said.