Torrington’s Tracey Thurman Motuzick honored as ‘survivor and crusader’

HARTFORD — Described as a “survivor and crusader,” Tracey Motuzick of Torrington was honored Friday in Hartford by a statewide coalition for her decades of support for victims of domestic violence.

The awards ceremony, sponsored by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, presented Motuzick with the Coalition Crusader Award. The program booklet notes that she was honored for her “experience and action (which) forever changed the landscape of domestic violence laws in Connecticut and the nation.”

Motuzick’s last name was Thurman when she came to national prominence in 1983 for her successful civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the domestic violence meted out by her estranged husband, Charles “Buck” Thurman Sr.

His final brutal attack left Motuzick partially paralyzed and hospitalized for eight months, she said on Friday. Once she was released, Motuzick said she had to use a wheelchair for a year. She now relies on a wheeled walker.

“I would not be here without your support,” Motuzick said in her remarks to the audience. “I will speak about this so others can be helped.”

“I wish when I went through this in 1983, there was a group like Susan B. Anthony (Project) ,” Motuzick said in her presentation speech.

The Torrington-based nonprofit organization, which supports survivors of domestic abuse, was a nascent group, with just one part-time organizer, when the domestic violence against Motuzick began.

The Susan B. Anthony Project now provides services to residents in 20 communities in Litchfield County.

“We pay homage to the survivors for all the years you’ve endured,” Jeanne Fusco, the organization’s executive director, told the assembled group.

“This event is for the thousands who’ve come before,” Fusco said. “Many police departments changed their policies and regulations based on the countless organizations who emulated Tracey’s advocacy.”

Those changes stemmed from a civil rights lawsuit Motuzick’s attorneys filed in 1984 against the Torrington Police Department for “the nonperformance or malperformance of official duties by the defendant police officers,” according to court records.

Court documents state that “between early October 1982 and June 10, 1983, the plaintiff, Tracey Thurman, a woman living in the City of Torrington, and others on her behalf, notified the defendant City through the defendant police officers of the City of repeated threats upon her life and the life of her child, the plaintiff Charles J. Thurman, Jr., made by her estranged husband, Charles Thurman.”

The record continues, “Attempts to file complaints by plaintiff Tracey Thurman against her estranged husband in response to his threats of death and maiming were ignored or rejected by the named defendants and the defendant City.”

Motuzick said on Friday that her ex-husband was “only jailed for eight years,” despite the repeated attempts on her life and that of their son.

The lack of response by the city’s police department in 1983 would not and could not occur now. In 1986, the state enacted a comprehensive family violence act, which sets standards for police officers and the courts on how to respond to domestic violence cases.

“There is an evolution of training in police academies,” Fusco said after the awards event. Experts in domestic violence are invited into the academy’s classes to discuss the crime, she said.

A spokesman for the Torrington Police Department could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon. However, police Lt. Michael Emanuel, who is now retired, previously discussed the evolution an interview with the Register Citizen . “We follow the law (the family violence act) by the letter,” he said.

The change in survivor support is rewarding, Motuzick said. “Advocates work day in and day out.”

She said her role is a personal one “I’ll talk to survivors anytime they ask me. I’ll talk to someone in the grocery store if they ask me.”

Motuzick remarried 33 years ago to Michael Motuzick. He said they met because his brother married her best friend.

“I was the best man and Tracey was supposed to be the maid of honor, but she was in the hospital,” Michael Motuzick said. “Everyone says she’s lucky to have me. But, I’m the one who is lucky.”