Liverpool After six years, two months and seven days of marriage, Liverpool resident Elaina Leonardo packed what she could fit into the family minivan, picked up her three children from daycare, and left her home and her husband.
Recalling that day more than two years ago, Leonardo observes, “Someone from the outside would have said that I walked away from a good life. Those that know me, know that I escaped hell. That I escaped from a hard-handed husband, a prison, and unimaginable control, and secured my children’s future happiness.”
Leonardo and other victims of domestic violence, among others, will be honored by the Everson Museum of Art and the Hiscock Legal Aid Society at VOICES, a fundraiser celebrating the act of finding one’s voice, whether through art or legal advocacy.
The event will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Everson Museum of Art, 401 Harrison Street, Syracuse.
Due to a young life as an orphan in foster care without feeling loved, Leonardo rationalized her ex-husband’s abusive treatment of her as acceptable, and allowed the abuse to continue because of her need to feel loved “at all costs.”
Paralyzing fear and a commitment to her growing family kept her anchored in this trap for almost seven years until she received an email from an old friend that reminded her of a time when she had been independent and strong.
It was then that she found her voice and removed herself and her children from the grasp of their abuser.
While she was granted a divorce from her husband, custody battles did not end her exposure to her ex-husband’s berating, harassment and false allegations.
Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell, a staff attorney in the Domestic Violence Project at Hiscock Legal Aid agreed to represent Leonardo, and filed a petition detailing the years of abuse which had not been brought to light in previous court hearings, describing the harmful nature of the complicated custody agreement which caused continued conflict between the parents.