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Actress Speaks At 10TH Anniversary Voices Of Courage Luncheon

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Being famous and financially secure doesn't protect one from abuse and it doesn't make it easier to leave an abusive relationship, actress Meredith Baxter told the crowd of over 400 people gathered to support the Domestic Violence Crisis Center at its 10th annual Voices of Courage fundraiser.

"I will tell you that being a well-known person and seemingly independent and successful in my chosen field was no defense against treatment at home and it couldn't touch the shameful feelings that engulfed everything," she said. "I was trying to not know what I knew. I couldn't acknowledge that I was in an abusive marriage because that would have required action, and I was too afraid."

The May 3rd event at the Stamford Marriott Hotel raised over $150,000 for the DVCC that will go toward providing essential services for victims and their children. In her talk, Baxter encouraged and applauded such ongoing support for those who assist victims of domestic abuse.

"Not everybody can get out of damaging relationships easily, and circumstances differ for all of us," she said. "That's why it's imperative that we support places like the DVCC. In difficult economic times, domestic violence crisis needs become even greater. With almost 4,000 people being served by the DVCC every year, you can see that the need for your support is more urgent than ever."

Baxter described how she had grown up in an atmosphere devoid of love and nurturing support and how that pattern had continued into her adult relationships. No one, not even her fellow cast members in the long-running TV series Family Ties, knew of the abuse she and her children endured during her 15-year marriage to David Birney.

"I was a secret keeper. I was warned that what went on in our house stayed in our house, and I never told anyone. I was too ashamed," she said.

 She revealed that the threat of physical abuse was always present, even though it didn't actually happen that often. But the verbal and emotional abuse rarely abated.

"It was the constant stream of insults and name-calling and vilification that left the deepest scars," she told the audience. "The effect of being on the receiving end of verbal abuse must not be minimized. I remember reading that even women of strong fiber and with a great sense of self-worth can be ground to dust by the corrosive effect of constant vitriolic, demeaning, belittling attacks. For me, the words cut far deeper than the slaps."

 Baxter's keynote speech followed 15 current and former clients of the DVCC who lent their words and voices to an audio presentation on the power of using one's voice to speak up against abuse and on how the DVCC helped them to do so.

"Whether it was a minute to respond to my crisis call, or supporting me as I lay in the emergency room, and the hours to accompany me to court, the days playing with and educating my children, months waiting for an apartment, or years for justice to be delivered, it occurred because of the work and commitment of the staff of the DVCC," said one client, referring to her ability to finally leave her abuser.

"You certainly will understand that the time was filled with far too much pain and suffering to comfortably communicate, but to each of you gathered today, please know at the DVCC we were sheltered and supported, heard and represented, respected and encouraged. It lessened the pain," said another.