A Look at the Ball to Unmask Domestic Violence

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Masked revelers at the ball
Masked revelers at the ball

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

October is domestic violence awareness month and last Thursday, the National Domestic Violence Hotline turned 20 with a spirited celebration at the Julia Morgan Ballroom. With chairs Elaine Mellis and Arlene Inch, the masquerade ball to unmask domestic violence raised $125,000 to help the hotline answer phone calls, chats, and text messages. Founded in 1996, the hotline was a component of the Violence Against Women Act and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. The confidential and free call service provides compassionate support, crisis intervention, and life-saving tools to victims of emotional and physical domestic abuse.

Sue Somersall and Jane Seymour
Sue Somersall and Jane Seymour

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The festivities kicked off with a lively champagne reception where revelers showed off extravagant masks. At 7:30 p.m. guests were invited into the ballroom for an elegant seated dinner and moving presentation. While the crowd nibbled on a delectable roasted beet salad with persimmons, herbs, shaved ricotta salata, and lambrusco vinaigrette, Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the hotline gave a welcome speech. Jones shared some sobering statistics: one in four women, one in seven men, and one in three teens are victims of domestic violence. A live auction followed with auctioneer Alissa Ford urging the guests to donate more to the hotline. The lots included painting lessons and lunch with Jane Seymour—who looked stunning in a formfitting red gown, tickets to the Super Bowl with a special NFL experience, and a week of fly fishing at a Montana lodge.

Christi Paul
Christi Paul

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Chef Larry Finn, a Danny Meyer vet and the culinary director at Credo restaurant, served up a scrumptious second course of tender seared duck breast, braised swiss chard, herb-roasted sweet potatoes, and pickled pears with a red wine huckleberry sauce. When Christi Paul, the award-winning anchor and reporter of CNN’s New Day took the stage, the room was silent. She told the story of her own experience with domestic violence, bringing tears to the eyes of many people in attendance. “No one lets domestic violence happen to them,” she said. Deciding to go public with her account of an abusive first husband, Paul said was the “scariest moment of my life.” Yet she realizes that through sharing the most intimate part of her life, at events such as the hotline fundraiser and with her book Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, she helps other women like herself.

Franc D’Ambrosio performs
Franc D’Ambrosio performs

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The night concluded on a positive note with a rich chocolate tart from the kitchen and lively performance by Franc D’Ambrosio. Accompanied only by a pianist, D’Ambrosio sang a medley of beautiful songs featuring The “Music of the Night,” from the Phantom of the Opera, which he is known for. Notable attendees included Brian Boitano, Jake Wall, Erin Sawyer, and Lois Lehrman. Who wore the best mask? Well, we think it was tie between Elisabeth Thieriot’s golden mask with a mane of black feathers and Belinda Berry’s handheld mint green and white harlequin mask.

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