Betsy's Story

* Please be advised that this story can be triggering for some.

Elizabeth 'Betsy' McCandless graduated from Simmons with her Bachelor's degree in psychology in 1971, and went on to complete her graduate program in counseling in 1974 from Northeastern University in Boston. 

Betsy was well-loved by her community, and known for her sense of humor.  She enjoyed knitting and sewing, and traveled the country to find beautiful fabrics and fibers to create clothing and art work.  

At the age of forty-two, Betsy was quickly swept off her feet by a man who married her within just three months. Ten days after their marriage, he began to abuse her and control her every move.   He stole her car, money, and broke down her self-esteem.  Due to the domestic violence that Betsy was experiencing, she was forced to leave behind the job that she loved.  

After enduring six months of abuse, with the help of a friend, Betsy escaped the relationship and went into hiding. She filed for a restraining order against her husband, pressed criminal charges and filed for a divorce.  While her husband was arrested for his violent behavior, the judicial system failed to hold him accountable, and let him go without bail.  He never spent a single night in jail, and began to violate the protection order almost immediately.

Betsy spent the next 5 months in hiding, seeking safety and trying to rebuild her life and self-esteem.  Her brother (now Simmons Board of Trustee Member) Steve McCandless, hired a private detective to track the whereabouts of her ex-husband, so that she could remain safe.  Meanwhile, Betsy found support surrounding her physical and mental health, started attending support groups for survivors and enrolled in a self-defense class.  

One night after going Christmas shopping and attending her support group, she quickly stopped by her house to check her mail.  This was out of character for Betsy who typically didn't go home alone out of fear that her ex-husband would find and hurt her.  But Betsy had been making incredible progress, and was starting to feel safe and independent again.  As she opened the door to her Brookline Apartment, she found her ex-husband waiting for her with a loaded gun.  He shot Betsy two times, and then shot himself.  He died instantly, and Betsy passed away within a few hours.

This tragic story hits very close to home for the Simmons Community, and is unfortunately not uncommon in the greater community.  To keep Betsy's memory alive, to prevent future violence, and to support students in need, Simmons University offers a Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach Program, and Betsy's Friends Peer Education Program.

If you are in need of assistance or support, please contact the Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach Program at  617-521-2118, or call Public Safety for an emergency at 617-521-1111.