Deana Brisbois' Full Story

Deana Brisbois was a creative, athletic and energetic 23-year-old woman from Topsfield, MA. She lived life to the fullest - at her happiest when at the hub of constant activity and commotion. Friends and family remember her as a beautiful young woman with the ability to makes friends in an instant with her engaging personality, ever-present sense of humor and heart of gold. In April of 1994, she lost her life in a car-crash near Brockton, MA. Deana had been in an abusive relationship for two years before her death. Her abuser was with her in the car when it crashed-but fled the scene-waiting over nine hours before he sought emergency treatment and claiming he fled the wreck in a panic. After Deana's death, her abuser was subsequently jailed for two years on unrelated assault and battery charges (32 charges from five Massachusetts counties).
Though Deana's abuser was never charged with her death, her mother and stepfather, Mary Ellen and Ira Gorfinkle, and friends believe he played a role. A series of incidents-now a matter of public record-provide solid evidence of a pattern of abuse. Deana had taken out an emergency restraining order against him in 1993 after being hit. Peabody police charged the abuser with trying to run a car off the road in which Deana and another man were passengers. She sought emergency care after being thrown out of his moving car. Mary Ellen never witnessed the abuse, but was horrified when she saw the bruises he left on Deana's body-like the cruel bite mark left on her cheek, and the results of a "haircut" when he whacked off chunks of Deana's hair with a knife. When Deana finally admitted to the abuse, her family and friends urged her to get help. Deana talked with counselors, clergy, countless friends, doctors, lawyers, family members, and even other abused women. She left him several times, only to return when he apologized-certain that he would change.
Mary, Ira and Deana's friend were devastated by her death. How could someone so vital, nurturing, and loving be taken so young? How could someone as intelligent and sure of herself as she, and someone coming from a supportive and financially secure family possibly become involved in an abusive relationship? A relationship that would eventually end her life? Before Deana's death, Mary, Ira, her twin brother David Brisbois, Pat Lucy, Christine (Crippen) Champeau, Laura Sindoni, and other friends thought dating violence was something that happened to other people.
Faced with the hard truth-that relationship violence knows no boundaries- Deana's family and friends held a golf tournament in August 1994 to raise money in her memory. They founded Deana's Fund and donated the money raised to women's shelters. The golf tournament became an annual event, and in 1995 the organization supported the development of a play to PREVENT dating violence. The play was called The Yellow Dress.
Today, Deana's Fund is recognized as an innovative leader in developing and producing comprehensive educational theater programs on relationship violence for grades 3-12, colleges, workplaces, and in our communities. The Yellow Dress, and Remote Control have effectively taught over 300,000 youth and adults about the warning sighs, and patterns of abuse, and how to get help or help a friend.
With a staff of two-full time and two part-time employees, the organization expects to produce approximately 475 programs in 2000. This includes production of a new program for elementary school students called: Work It Out! This program will premiere in March of 2000. The new program focuses on issues of bullying and harassment-behaviors that researches identify as precursors of domestic and dating violence.
The Fund is also working with STARs peer leaders at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School to update and produce Remote Control for diverse audiences. The Fund is also interested in developing programs on: relationship violence for diverse multi-cultural audiences; a program on respect, bullying and harassment for grades K-3; the role of firearms and violence; issues effecting the health and safety of children, and young adults.
Nelson DeOliveira
Louis D. Brown
Deana Brisbois
Matthew Blek
Jason Harper
Transition House
Tara Coakley
Ahmed Ali Hashi
Cheryl Perkins