For Sigmund Award Winner Tamron Hall, Fighting Domestic Abuse Is Personal
TIRELESS ADVOCATE: Television anchor/reporter Tamron Hall, who has been working to end domestic violence, is being honored by Womanspace in May for her efforts both on and off camera. She will accept the Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award at the organization’s annual gala at the Westin Princeton.
The devastation of domestic violence is all too familiar to Tamron Hall. It has haunted the TODAY show co-host and MSNBC anchor since 2004, when Hall’s sister, Renate, was murdered by her partner. He was never charged with the crime.
Fighting domestic violence has become a kind of crusade for Ms. Hall, which makes her an appropriate recipient of this year’s Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award. Bestowed for the past 21 years by WomanSpace, the Lawrenceville-based organization that provides assistance and counseling to families affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence, the award will be presented to Ms. Hall on May 19 at The Westin Princeton.
The Barbara Boggs Sigmund award is named for the late Princeton Borough mayor and the first woman freeholder in Mercer County. Ms. Sigmund was instrumental in founding Womanspace in 1977.
While she declined to be interviewed for this story, Ms. Hall provided a statement: “It is an honor to be recognized with the 2016 Barbara Sigmund Award. My family was personally destroyed by domestic violence and we have rebuilt by helping others, those families and victims who have felt alone. Since opening up about my story, I have been approached by countless others who have taken a stand. We must keep talking about this issue and work to end domestic violence.”
In an article she wrote for today.com two years ago, Ms. Hall opened up about her experience. “I have felt guilty for so long that I didn’t do more to help my sister,” she wrote. “My father, who died soon after my sister of what my mother believes was a broken heart, said of his children that I was the child who ‘was always for right.’ Yet I have felt so ‘wrong’ since her death.
“My guilt centers around one night at my home in Chicago. My sister was visiting when I heard a commotion downstairs. I rushed to see what had happened, only to find my home torn apart and my sister with a huge, red knot on her face. She was angry, embarrassed, and afraid. The other person there told me she ‘fell,’ but I ordered that person to leave immediately as I comforted my sister. The next morning when I went to check on her, I found she had let the person back into my home. I was furious and demanded they both leave. While we eventually reconciled, it wasn’t until we had gone without speaking for months.”
Renate was murdered a few years later. It took Ms. Hall years to be able to speak about the tragedy. But she managed to channel her guilt into something positive by creating a segment for the TODAY show’s “Shine a Light” series, focusing on domestic abuse. The emotional segment, in which a group of young women relate their stories and talk about the shame and misery they have felt, is hard to watch.
Born and raised in Texas, Ms. Hall, 45, worked as a reporter and anchor at television stations in her home state and later in Chicago before joining NBC in 2007. She co-hosts the 9 a.m. hour of TODAY and anchors “MSNBC Live With Tamron Hall.” She is a graduate of Temple University, and was recently tapped to fill Bill Cosby’s seat on the school’s board of trustees after he resigned due to allegations that he sexually assaulted women over decades.
Ms. Hall received Temple’s Lew Klein Alumni in the Media award in 2010. She has been recognized by Day One, a New York based advocacy group for domestic violence victims. As part of the “Shine a Light” series, she has raised more than $42,000 to help end the abuse.
“Tamron Hall addresses the issue of domestic violence with compassion, courage, and a commitment to helping other women and girls recognize abusive relationships,” reads a printed statement from Womanspace. “She also reminds us that domestic violence casts a wide net, impacting not only the intended victims, but also their sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, children, friends, and entire communities. Hall is firm that ‘love doesn’t have to hurt,’ and she is working diligently on ending the prevalence of victim blaming which is overshadowing the real issue at hand, which is putting an end to the violence.”
The awards gala is the biggest event of the year for Womanspace, and the organization is still accepting sponsorships and selling tickets. All proceeds go toward programs and services for victims and survivors of human trafficking, domestic and sexual violence for women, men, and children. Visit womanspace.org for more information.