By Maxmillian Robinson
On the stormy evening of April 14, Take Back the Night, which is Adelphi’s annual event dedicated to spreading awareness about domestic assault prevention, opened up with a poem called “The Strong Woman,” by 2022 class president Sarah Carbain. It was a poem speaking specifically about a woman and her hardships, ultimately becoming a turnaround story. After Tiffany Martino, assistant director of the Center for Student and Community Engagement (SCE) and Adelphi senior Maria Peridizzo informed the audience of nearly 300 about the hotline, the Beverly Hills housewife star approached the stage.
Taylor Armstrong, a member of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” season one (2010), is an advocate against domestic abuse. She said that one-fourth of all women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and that domestic abuse tends to be underreported, which leads those who run the hotlines to suspect there are more victims out there. While Armstrong was fortunate enough to leave her troubled relationship, she said some weren’t able to make it. She referenced Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman from Long Island who was killed by her fiance during a road trip in the United States last fall.
Armstrong was born on June 10, 1971 in Kansas. She said when she was growing up, her father “never cared” about her well being. To fill the void, she developed long-term relationships with men.
“It caused my self-esteem issues to become higher,” she said. “Your twenties are a time to figure out who you want to be, what you can and can’t accept, plus what friends you have. Formally and in business too.”
She said all this led into the disparaging relationship with her former husband (Russell). She said that in the beginning the partnership was “good” as she genuinely loved him. Down the road however, Armstrong pointed out several “red flags,” which ultimately led to her filing for divorce, such as jealousy.
Armstrong said, “[He] accused me of sleeping with the waiter [from a new restaurant] that I knew nothing about. He would go through my cell phone, old contacts and each person. He even accused me of sleeping with [former professional basketball player] Shaq, so I was forced to take a [polygraph] test. It was never enough”
For the test, she was in a line with criminals to see if she was lying. Once passing the test, her ex-husband saw potential for reconciliation.
However the situation only became more complex once her now 16-year-old daughter Kennedy was born.
“[Russell] now had full control,” she said. “While I was running the garment district, he told me to quit and then ran me out of money.”
Armstrong also explained isolation as a red flag, as her friends did everything they could to form healthy friend groups with other spouses, encouraging the couple to drop the tension and reunite. Armstrong was contemptuous, yet her husband was mostly in contrast.
“It was my birthday and we celebrated in Vegas. That night, I went back to the hotel with Lisa [Vanderpump], went to Chippendales and was accused of cheating,” she said. “He then held me down, punched my eye and jaw.”
She received ocular reconstruction surgery for her bruises, yet still wanted to go back to the relationship, due to his swift change in character.
“When he came up to me with roses, I really wanted to sleep with him,” Armstrong said. “Then I saw Kennedy and knew I had to change my mind.”
Finally, she filed for divorce. The day came to arrive at court for divorce custody, but Russell never showed.
“He didn’t show up to divorce custody,” she said. “Later I found him [hanging from a rope] and saw my daugher as well saying ‘Did Daddy do something stupid again?’”
All of these signs led to a death that could’ve been avoided through calling the domestic abuse hotline and the boldness to walk away sooner. Armstrong urged everyone in attendance and for those who are reading this to be mindful of these characteristics.
“Mood swings, reckless driving and abandonment,” she said. “My ex threatened to kill me on several occasions by speeding through Rodeo Drive. He left me at the bar. Go with your gut. If you feel it, then it’s abuse.”
Aside from her high-profile lifestyle on television, Armstrong is an active member of her community. She visited five children’s shelters to help build a relationship with families involved in domestic abuse.
“Each kid made their own cover book and pics of beds were in each photo,” she said. “This is paradise because it felt like they never had a shelter, which Kennedy never did.”
Armstrong wishes time with her daughter was brought back so that Kennedy was protected better.
“Me and K’s lives were spared, but Gabby’s wasn’t,” she said. “My dream is that no child has to draw a bed and shelters are empty. Education is the most important. Say something if you see something wrong, so that these situations are prevented.”
The Take Back the Night event continued after Armstrong left, with numerous individuals in the Adelphi student body speaking out about their former relationship concerns.
This was followed by a campus-wide march around Adelphi, encouraging the students to speak out and to forever stop prevention.
One comment from a participant stood out the most for its stunning power. “Stand up and fight! Cause we all have the right to be safe at night,” it read.
Another annual event, the clothesline project, took place that day from 10:30 am to 3 pm. This event, sponsored by the Criminal Justice Program, Criminal Justice Club and InterGreek Council, is a powerful visual display on campus to honor survivors as well as victims of intimate violence through hand-painted T-shirts on a clothesline.