'Being turned away'

Last modified: 4/13/2011 12:00:00 AM
John Cantin, honored with his wife yesterday for making a difference, framed his message quite well.

He placed it in the middle of the function room at St. Paul's Church near pictures, also framed, of his late daughter, Missy Charbonneau. Missy was shot dead by her husband 1½ years ago.

Her smile in the photos lit up the room. Cantin's words shed some light, too.

"I cannot imagine people like my daughter being turned away for help due to budget cuts," John's

message read in the last paragraph. "The coalition is a group of very dedicated people of all types who are passionately driven to help with this cause."

The cause surfaces annually, on Victims' Rights Day. Families of those killed gather together, leaning on one another, crying, remembering. John and Claire were thanked at the ceremony for their work by Gov. John Lynch, Attorney General Mike Delaney and others.

The people killed have been silenced, but those left behind keep talking. People like the Cantins, who have been busy while their daughter rests in peace.

They pushed for new legislation last year, forcing our judicial system to view assault by choking as a signal of behavior to come.

They've raised money for organizations that help victims of domestic violence. Now they're speaking out against proposed budget cuts that will slice programs designed to help helpless women.

"Missy went to the Y for support," Claire Cantis said. "These programs are a necessity. I can't imagine if Missy had gone to the Y and got turned away due to lack of funding."

The event included friends and relatives of abused women and children, and people killed in random violence.

Like Craig Lane, who was 17 when a robber stabbed him to death at a Peterborough gas station 22 years ago.

Craig liked trains, reading about the Titanic, the Red Sox and jousting with his dad, Skip Lane, a Yankees fan.

"We're all in the same thing," Skip Lane said. "We all had loved ones who've been victimized one way or another, and we need to support each other."

On this day, with John and Claire as the central figures, violence against women, targeted violence based on obsession and jealousy, took center stage.

Missy and Jon Charbonneau, both Manchester kids, met in high school. They married in 2007 after a long courtship and settled into their careers, Missy as a nurse, her husband as a carpenter.

Always possessive with a short fuse, Jon threw Missy down a staircase because she wanted to go running with Claire. He then threw her over a table and choked her. Missy somehow scrambled away, hiding at a nearby school.

At the time, choking was not mentioned under the definition of second-degree assault. Jon, free on $30 bail, later shot and killed Missy, shot and wounded John Cantin, then killed himself.

Six months later, with John and Claire leading the charge, choking was upgraded to a felony in a landslide Legislative vote.

Now, though, the House Finance Committee wants to shave 50 percent from the $300,000 spent annually to fund domestic violence programs. And with federal stimulus money gone as well after two years, advocates are worried.

Grace Mattern, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, says the proposed cuts could mean as many as 900 battered women with no place to turn.

"At some point, we're going to be challenged to maintain a basic network of really critical emergency support systems for victims," said Mattern, who's retiring from her post after 30 years. "And if a victim goes un-served or partially served, then that message gets out into the community and some victims may not even reach out for help."

Kaitlyn Sudberry, who grew up in Rindge, needed help three years ago, when her ex-boyfriend shot and killed her as she tried to run from him. He then killed himself.

Her mother, Ellen Cantrill, stood behind a table displaying bumper stickers and pins, for sale to help fund support programs in trouble.

There was also a photo of Kaitlyn, her dark hair pulled back tight.

Cantrill said her daughter was petite, 5-foot-2. She said Kaitlyn had received a scholarship to the University of Arizona, where she planned to study animal biology.

"Her only crime was she cared too much," Cantrill said. "She thought she could help him, and when she realized she couldn't . . . he had an anger issue. He was abusive to her.

"Programs are getting cut, and those are the programs that help these young women stay out of trouble," Cantrill continued. "But they don't look elsewhere, because those are the easiest ones to cut."

Michele Hovestadt of Hillsboro spoke about her mother, Jo-Ann Francis, stabbed to death by her husband in an alcohol-fueled rage 2½ years ago. Francis used to take Hovestadt's daughter, 17-year-old Brianna Dupont, camping on weekends.

"These programs should be a priority," Hovestadt said. "My mother was in two previous marriages, and there was domestic violence in both. (Women) don't want to leave, because they feel they don't have any place to go."

There may soon be even fewer choices. Lynch was asked his thoughts.

"It's very difficult, and it's not anything that someone wants to do," he said. "Hopefully some of those cuts that did occur in the House will be restored in the Senate."

Meanwhile, John and Claire Cantin keep opening eyes.

They talk about Missy and comfort others who have suffered a similar fate. They're not slowing down.

"My passion for the cause, it's all still there," John said. "Actually, I think it's probably a little bit stronger than it was."

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com.)




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