Journey to Safety director urges community to spread awareness of resources for survivors of domestic abuse.

The following remarks were delivered at a July 29 vigil for Nancy Hanson, a mother of three who was murdered by her husband on July 15 in Newton.

My name is Elizabeth Schön Vainer and I am the director of Journey to Safety, the domestic abuse program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. I have strong roots in Newton, having grown up here, as did my mother, who still lives here. While I no longer live here, It is still home and I, like many of you, am holding many emotions – deeply.

Sad and angry – Nancy should still be here, raising her three boys safely in their home.

Frustrated that we continue to live in a world where people who are being harmed by their partner often feel deep shame about their situation, while those who cause that harm so often do not. There are a number of excellent programs that offer free and confidential services to people in Newton who have controlling or abusive partners, and yet we know that the idea of contacting us carries stigma and shame. Why? Because as a society we place the burden on the people experiencing harm to take actions to protect themselves. Somehow holding the person who causes the harm accountable is harder for us to do effectively.

Heartbroken – To those who did know at least some of what was happening to Nancy, including her sons: please know that you did everything in your power to help her. There is nothing you could have done to stop her husband’s horrific actions. He was the one who made the deliberate choice to take her life.

Committed – Nancy’s murder calls on us and our partner organizations and all of us together to work with the city to strengthen our collective response to both those who are experiencing harm and those who are causing harm.

Inspired and moved – This amazing community has come together out of their love for Nancy and her sons, wanting both to help those who need help to find it and to stop abusive individuals from doing further harm in Newton and beyond.

Control and manipulation are at the heart of abusive relationships. It’s important to understand what that can look like in an intimate relationship.

Your work is showing up! By being here right now, you represent the best of what community is: love, strength and commitment to support those who are being harmed.

Nancy’s murder is an awful reminder that abuse happens everywhere, including Newton. We hope that you will leave here today resolved to do at least three things…

  1. Learn more about domestic abuse. Control and manipulation are at the heart of abusive relationships and it’s important to understand what that can look like in an intimate relationship. The City of Newton’s website has contact information and links to all our programs where you can learn more. Know that many of our programs a multilingual/multicultural and that there are also programs that specialize in services for the LGBTQ+, Asian and South Asian communities.
  2. Share what you learn with as many people as you can! Help us get the word out about free and confidential services that are available for people who live in Newton. Invite our programs to speak at awareness-raising gatherings you organize so that even more people know what to look and listen for and how to connect people with help.
  3. Take care of yourselves and each other. Check in with people you know to see how they are doing. This work is difficult, particularly in the wake of such a tremendous loss. Do it together, in community.

May Nancy Hanson’s memory be for a blessing.