Joe Torre: A Traumatic Childhood and an All-Star Baseball Career

The ex-Yankees manager speaks out about his abuse as a child



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With his wife, Ali, Torre founded the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which helps thousands of Westchester kids deal with their troubled home lives. photo by Josh Sailor PhotographySecond, he decided to use his status and position to help raise awareness for domestic abuse by starting, together with Ali, the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation in 2002. The couple set out to focus on children, with the goal of ending the cycle of abuse. “It was actually Ali’s idea to start our foundation and use education to communicate with the youngsters,” says Torre. Ali explains that they “really based it on Joe’s own personal experience of being a child victim of domestic violence and how that affected him as an individual. We understood Joe was in a position to really make an impact, especially as a man speaking out on this issue, which is generally kept a secret. Even though it was a really busy time in our lives, we had a great opportunity to create awareness.” 

As a way of raising both awareness and funds, the Foundation holds both an annual gala and a golf outing. (This year’s gala raised $1.3 million—and about 70 percent of each dollar goes directly to running in-school programs, according to Judith Lynn, executive director of the Foundation.) But to fully invest itself in ending the cycle of abuse, in 2005, the Foundation started its flagship initiative: a school-based program named Margaret’s Place. To date, there are a dozen Margaret’s Places, four of which are in Westchester—Pelham Middle School, Cross Hill Academy in Yonkers, White Plains High School, and Peekskill Middle School. Margaret’s Place, named for Torre’s mother, who passed away in 1974 (and who, Torre admits, never spoke of the abuse and would therefore have had a hard time with the idea of Margaret’s Place), is a comprehensive program that provides students with a safe room in school where they can meet with a professional counselor trained in domestic-violence intervention and prevention. The 12 locations help 8,000 students annually, including about 3,000 here in Westchester. “When we first started in 2005, the government statistics we got from Westchester County were that there were [thousands of] children in the County alone who were impacted by this,” says Ali. “So we wanted to end those stereotypes that it only happens in lower socioeconomic city areas—it happens all over.” 

“When they first come into the room, it’s a really warm, safe, comfortable space,” says Beth Thompson, program director for the four Westchester Margaret’s Place locations, which are administered by Westchester Jewish Community Services. “We get to know the kid and if it’s clear that there’s an issue the child needs to talk about, then our counselors are prepared to work with them—helping them set goals, solve problems, and help them get a better understanding of their own behavior and how they impact others.” The idea of a safe place for children to talk through their problems, again, grew out of Torre’s background and own self-realization. “I had nobody to open up to,” he says. “If I would’ve realized that other kids had gone through this, I would have talked about it, but I was so ashamed. And that’s the one thing that struck me: Once I felt free to talk about it, it really made a huge difference.”

Every year, the Foundation invests in outcome data for its programs. The latest data show that 98 percent of children who’ve gone through Margaret’s Place feel more hopeful about their future, while 94 percent feel safer. “When kids write comments back, sometimes they really just go right to your heart, such as ‘It saved my life,’” says Thompson. Says Torre: “We’ve seen the results of Margaret’s Place and it made me understand that we are certainly [communicating] in the right way.”

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