West Haven woman survived 52 years of abuse, hopes to help others

Domestic Violence Awareness

WEST HAVEN, Conn. – 10 years ago, a modest Meriden home turned into a crime scene.

“I look back sometimes and I think ‘oh my God, why didn’t you kill him,'” said Rita Pompano about her husband, Ralph.

“He always told me that if I ever left, he would kill my whole family,” Rita said. “… and anytime he said he was going to do something, he did it.”

Rita spent more than five decades in fear of Ralph.

“I was never in love with him. I was afraid of him right from the start.”

She was 17 when they met. He was 23.

“My mother was always weird, she always told me, ‘no matter who asks you out, make sure you go or if you’re at a dance and someone asks you, you always say yes.’”

She did.  A short time later, they eloped. A few years later came a beautiful baby boy, Anthony.

Throughout most of the marriage, Rita says Ralph controlled her every movement.     

“I was totally alienated from my family and friends,” Rita said. “Anything I enjoyed doing, I had to stop doing.”

Then, in January of 2011, Ralph got sick and the verbal abuse turned physical.

“He would take me and throw me into a closet and break the closet. Throw me on the floor,” Rita said.

“The beatings got so bad, he used to give me a pillow and I knew it was time for my beating of the day and there was just no escaping from him.”

When she finally did escape, he called their son to the house.

“So, Anthony went over and his father said ‘sit on the couch.’ He walked in the other room, he closed all the drapes, he turned the music on loud and he came out with a gun,” Rita said.

“He said, ‘if you don’t tell me where your mother is, I’m going to kill you.’ Anthony wouldn’t tell him. He put the gun up to his head, he cocked the trigger.”

Anthony told his mom that’s when Ralph got emotional and walked out of the room. Anthony saw his chance.

“He ran down the stairs, halfway down the stairs, his father shot at him. The bullet went right past his head,” Rita said.

Anthony hid at a neighbors house. Quickly, police put out a BOLO for Ralph as he drove south. Troopers caught up with him in Virginia.

Ralph went to prison. But, even behind bars, the abuse continued.

“While he was in jail, he got arrested four more times for trying to hire people to kill me,” Rita said.

Ralph died in prison in 2015.

“I just felt like I was safe now because he couldn’t hurt me anymore.”

Even six years after his death, Rita uses door security bars, but she’s finally living the life she wants to live. She wants to try to help other women.

She writes every day and even published two books. Rita hopes sharing her story will save someone else from living it.

“All my friends tell me I’m a changed person. I’m leading my life the way I want to lead it,” Rita said.

She credits the Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence for helping her over the last 10 years. She also wanted to share her advice with other women going through similar situations.

WEB EXTRA: Rita’s Advice

If you or someone you know needs help, you can find resources at ctcadv.org or you can go directly to CTSafeConnect.org or call or text (888) 774-2900. Advocates are available 24/7.

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