Video: State Rep. Alyson Sullivan Shares Personal Story of Domestic Violence with East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen
Scott Allen, Chief of Police
153 Central St.
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
For Immediate Release
Friday, April 12, 2019
Contact: Benjamin Paulin
Email: [email protected]
State Rep. Alyson Sullivan Shares Personal Story of Domestic Violence with East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen
Rep. Sullivan Speaks Publicly for the First Time about Her Domestic Abuse
EAST BRIDGEWATER — In a powerful on-camera interview with East Bridgewater Police Chief and OneVoiceEB advocate Scott Allen, Massachusetts State Rep. Alyson Sullivan spoke publicly for the first time about her physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her former boyfriend.
The two-part interview can be viewed here:
“I want to bring awareness to domestic violence, domestic violence survivors, sexual assault survivors and say that it can happen to anybody,” Rep. Sullivan said during the interview. “We grew up in a very great household. My mom and dad had a very loving relationship […] At the end of my sophomore year I met the man who would eventually become my abuser. I was about 15-years-old when I met him and it wasn’t until right before my 21st birthday that I was able to detach myself from him.”
As part of EB HOPE’s ongoing video series entitled “Down Addiction Avenue,” in partnership with the town school district and the OneVoiceEB campaign, Chief Allen sat down last month with Rep. Sullivan and her sister, Kelly Dwyer, who serves as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. They filmed two half-hour video segments where they discussed various domestic violence issues, what the East Bridgewater Police Department is doing to address those issues and what resources are available in Massachusetts for victims and their loved ones.
During the filming, Rep. Sullivan, bravely shared her own personal story of abuse in order to show women that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that help is out there. In November, Rep. Sullivan, from Abington, was elected to her first term in state office, representing the 7th Plymouth District, which includes East Bridgewater, Abington and Whitman.
“For so many years I thought I was in love with this man, that this man loved me and that he cared about me and it was just a cycle of abuse that started to escalate even more than just what you would think as cute and protecting,” Rep. Sullivan said. “It escalated to be more mental, emotional and then it became very much physical. I’m lucky to be here today sitting in front of you.”
Rep. Sullivan detailed how a relationship that started off feeling positive turned as her abuser became controlling and began to isolate her from family and friends.
” ‘I don’t like you hanging out with this person. I don’t like you hanging out with that person. You spend too much time with your family.’ And then it was, ‘You can’t see your family. If you’re going to see your family you need permission by me to go see your friends and family,’ ” she said. “In that little bit of control he kept getting, he knew he was getting away with even more.”
Dwyer spoke during the interview about having to witness her younger sister’s situation from the outside looking in and how she was actually angry with her, not knowing at the time the stigma of victim blaming in a situation like this.
“I was angry. I was angry with her and I was angry with how she was behaving towards me, towards my siblings, towards my parents, and that she kept going back to him and I couldn’t figure out why,” Dwyer said. “As you see on the surface, she’s a very strong individual and I think she’s significantly stronger than what she was before. But it’s just that mental and emotional abuse that broke her down.”
In December 2008, after an incident of abuse outside of a bank where the Abington Police were called, an Abington detective gave Alyson his direct phone number and told her to reach out when she needed to.
“On Jan. 1 , after a very hell-like night, I really thought I was dying, the worst beating that I had ever received. I was strangled to the point where I passed out. I came to and I knew that if I continued in this relationship I’m not going to come out alive,” Rep. Sullivan said. “At that point it escalated to the point that he didn’t care that he was putting marks on my face. I had two black eyes. I had bite marks on my ears. Bite marks on my hands, and he didn’t care.”
That day, she said, her best friend picked her up to go to the mall and she told her everything and then she called the police detective and told him about her abuse.
Through reaching out to her friend and the police detective, and through many more tough months of restraining orders and court appearances, Alyson was able to get the help she needed and eventually broke free from the grip of her abuser.
“The support can really come from anybody,” Dwyer said. “Like a best friend, a police officer, a sibling. It really does take a village to support somebody that’s going through some really traumatic things to get them the help that they need.”
For Dwyer, in the state overall, significant progress has been made over the past decade when it comes to addressing domestic violence and that work continues through her role on the Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
“For both domestic violence and sexual assault it’s still under-reported,” Dwyer said. “And I feel like from when I started in this field to where everything is now, we’ve definitely made some tremendous strides. Even thinking about 10 years ago it was the stigma. It’s a stigma to talk about. It’s a stigma to be a victim and you put yourself in that situation and there was a lot of that victim blaming. A lot of that has shifted and now we are looking at holding perpetrators accountable, supporting survivors and looking away from the lens of using the term victim.
“I feel like we have a lot more to do though.”
Chief Allen is an appointed council member of the Military Veterans/Families work group of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. The East Bridgewater Police Department, through its school resource officers, has collaborated with the East Bridgewater school district in addressing students about maintaining healthy relationships and the signs of unhealthy relationships. Last year the school district implemented the Botvin Life Skills Training (LST) curriculum, which is an evidence-based substance abuse and violence prevention program.
The EBPD also works closely with its local coalition partners EB Hope, led by Executive Director Susan Silva, the OneVoiceEB campaign and Plymouth County Outreach to address a variety of issues including substance use, domestic violence, mental health and social-emotional wellness.
Chief Allen offers his sincere gratitude to Rep. Sullivan for sharing her story and to Dwyer for giving her expertise and insight as an expert on domestic violence issues.
On the next episode of “Down Addiction Avenue” EB HOPE will be addressing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders and help resources in concert with the OneVoiceEB campaign.