HARTFORD – “I was very fearful for myself and my family,” says Cristian Irizarry, who was 15 years old when his mom woke him to flee from an abusive relationship.
“I remember she just came in my room one night and she was like, ‘Pack everything up, pack everything you can pack up, we can only take what fits in the car. So, start packing things you really need.’ And it was a moment where I was like, ‘Wow,’ you know?” he says. “The puppy ran to us, it was a very emotional day.”
For 14 months, the family stayed at an Interval House “safe house”.
Irizarry hid his situation at school, becoming depressed and despondent but he found help.
“The women who worked there would take us to a room and would talk to us – how are we feeling, how’s school going, are we feeling good – just making us feel calm about the situation, letting us know everything would be OK,” he says.
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And, little by little, life returned to a new normal for the young man, his siblings and his mother.
“With the help of Interval House, she was able to find an apartment not too far away from the shelter. We were able to relocate there and start things all over again,” says Irizarry.
“We know that 92% of abusers are men and of those, 70% witnessed domestic violence in the home as a child,” says Amanda Delaura, Director of Development at Interval House, noting that’s why it’s so important when a young man like Irizarry breaks the cycle and becomes part of the solution.
The non-profit is currently trying to engage more men in the cause.
“Every year, we partner with the Hartford Business Journal, which runs an ad the week of Father’s Day listing as many men in our community, they lend us their names, saying they stand with us in the cause,” she explains.
It’s a crucial time, as incidences of domestic violence skyrocketed due to the stressors – like isolation – of the pandemic.
“Job loss, figuring out child care,” says Delaura.
“I really want to give back,” says Irizarry, now a student at UCONN, speaker at an Interval House event several years ago.
He intends to work with kids, so they know that fear can become hope.
“You have to stay positive,” he says. “You can push forward doing that.”
Interval House is trying to obtain more than 300 names this Father’s Day. It costs just $1 to sign up, and the deadline is June 2.
Click here for more information.