A domestic violence talk at Malone University on Tuesday featured a woman whose mother was murdered by her father.
Denise Branson is a survivor of the worst kind of domestic violence, but that survival created a number of demons that she’s still fighting.
Branson’s father, Thomas, murdered her mother, Emma, in 1976. He was convicted and sent to prison.
Branson, 42, came to speak at the Domestic Violence Project’s annual Take Back the Night event Tuesday at Malone University. The event also was sponsored by the Malone University Social Work Club, the Office of Student Development and Sports Management classes. Melissa Pearce, executive director and CEO of the Domestic Violence Project, a private, nonprofit Stark County organization, said the need for the program has been growing.
“In the last three years, there has been a real escalation of the people who need our services,” she said. “Up until about three years ago, we received about 3,000 calls annually. Last year, that went to 4,537. Three years ago, the program averaged 139 people in its Canton shelter. Last year, that went up to 273. In Massillon, it went up from 57 to 121.”
Tuesday night centered on Branston.
“My father murdered my mother when I was 6 years old,” the Canton native said before her talk. “I’m here to speak about the effect that murder had on me throughout my life.”
She was frank with the audience, telling them the story never came out about the physical, emotional and verbal abuse that went on in the house with her mother and siblings.
“My mother was an independent woman. She worked at Hoover,” Branson said. “I don’t think she got out in time,” even though her parents had been living separately for several weeks before her mother was shot. “I know she didn’t get out in time,” she said warning listeners to help women being abused to get escape the situation.
The effect of the murder was devastating on her and her siblings, she said. “I am still a work in progress. I carry a lot of resentment.”
She said she didn’t recall ever being hugged, by either parent. “All I recall is the screaming and the yelling and the breaking dishes,” she said.
Her resentment toward her father has hardly abated. “I still have not received an apology from the man who took my mother. He still has not taken responsibility,” she said.
The effect was emotional and physical, she told listeners. “I never wanted to get too close to anyone because of what this man did to me,” she said.
She knows now that a violent home is not acceptable. “I believe it is better for a child to come from a broken home” than to grow up in an abusive environment, she said.
She has conquered her physical problems through faith in God. “I still hurt. I still have pain,” she said. “I will not let fear deter me from beating this and standing strong.”
Page 2 of 2 - One step was asking forgiveness of those she hurt, then she asked the same of those who hurt her. “I haven’t asked my father,” she said. “I just put it in a letter and tucked it away.”
Pearce said Take Back the Night is an international event to try to unify men, women and children in recognizing that all people need to be part of ending violence and be part of the solution.
Project Prevention Director Karen Abel Jepsen said what became a national movement began in the 1960s and 70s, as part of the grassroots feminist push for “women reclaiming their right to be out in the night.”
She said Take Back the Night has evolved into a community event, with men and women working together. It’s “much more embraced by the community” and other agencies with support, she said.
Pearce said the growth is helping. “People are accessing shelters much more rapidly. We’re providing more care and helping people to adjust much more rapidly.”