Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence Visits Cortland

Kristen Paruginog speaks to members of the audience
Kristen Paruginog speaks about her experience as a survivor of domestic violence.

Last week, Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, a national non-profit organization that focuses on bringing a voice to survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence, brought The Return of Social Plan-First-Logo-1000x655Change to Cortland. The community forum was presented by Plan First Technologies, and sponsored by the Cortland LGBT Center, Tompkins Trust Company and Bailey Place Insurance along with the YWCA of Cortland and Cortland Prevention Resources.

Break the Silence founder Kristen Paruginog spoke to attendees at the Ramada Hotel about the importance of sharing stories and opening doors for others to share theirs. “We aren’t doing enough to address domestic violence,” she said. “It is so painful to feel like you are alone.” ” Break the Silence was my way of saying no more!” Through social media, Paruginog sends information and resources to people who reach out to her. “Social media allows people to be anonymous and seek help without revealing their identification,” said Paruginog.

Panel croppedA guest panel of representatives from local agencies and organizations led a conversation about what rural communities can do to increase awareness and provide education to help end the epidemic of domestic violence. Panelists included the YWCA’s Linda Shutts, SUNY Cortland’s Nan Pasquarello, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth McGrath, Director of Emergency Services Tammy Aiken, Kris Beard and Nancy Byrne from the Child Advocacy Center, and Anna Walters from the Vera House in Syracuse. Each panelist shared their unique perspective and experience with domestic violence in our community, as well as details about how their organization can help those who need assistance.

The event also included a preview of the documentary The Return of Social Change, which highlights the devastating results of domestic violence and shocking experiences of survivors who have found their way to Break the Silence and now work toward self-healing and promoting awareness around domestic and intimate partner violence. It conveys to victims that they are not alone in their battle and that help is available with a little courage and determination. It could even take the form of the judicial process, as in the case of divorce lawyers (such as Divorce Lawyer Corona CA) who can provide legal assistance. Survivors can also look for support groups and connect with other survivors of domestic violence.

Heather Kehoe
Heather Kehoe

In keeping with the theme Kristen set, local survivors and advocates shared parts of their personal struggle with members of the audience. “There was a time in my life when I didn’t know there was hope,” said Heather Kehoe a survivor of domestic violence. Kehoe has since remarried and her new husband, Eric has been a tremendous support. “It was important to let my children witness what a healthy relationship is.” ” I hope by sharing my story, it has the potential to unlock someone else’s prison,” she added.

Lauren Crandall, Miss Upstate New York, gave the closing statement where she discussed the effects of domestic violence on children and the LGBT community. She touched upon the many scars it leaves on all concerned. In some cases, the process can get complicated, requiring the services of an experienced legal expert (click here to keep reading). The event ended with Elbonee La’Trece Stevenson of Ithaca performing her original song “Life Isn’t Fair”.

Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence’s mission is to educate communities on the dangers of domestic violence, connect survivors, and assist in the transformation of the lives of survivors of domestic violence by providing personal development retreats, educational programs, and a 24-hour advocate hotline at 1-855-BTS-1777.

If you are someone seeking help or resources concerning domestic or intimate partner abuse, contact the YWCA’s Aid to Victims of Violence at (607) 756-6363 or 1-800-336-9622 or Cortland Prevention Services at (607) 756-8970. Visit to learn more about Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence and to find more national resources.