Tamron Hall talks about losing her sister to domestic violence: 'I suffered with the weight of a lot of guilt'

Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·4 min read

For Tamron Hall, whose older sister Renate was murdered in a 2004 domestic violence incident, advocating for victims of abuse is cathartic.

“Absolutely. You know, I suffered with the weight of a lot of guilt. I was aware,” Hall tells Yahoo Entertainment during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “I witnessed an incident involving my sister and someone, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know what to say after her death. I think my entire family, we hunkered down and embraced each other but did not know how to share her story.”

Tamron Hall remembers her late sister, Renate. (Photo: J. Countess/Getty Images)
Tamron Hall remembers her late sister, Renate. (Photo: J. Countess/Getty Images)

The host of the Tamron Hall Show has since changed that, speaking about how the loss affected her on TV and in interviews in the hopes of helping others. Of course, she only did so after having difficult conversations with her sister’s children and her mother. Ultimately, everyone agreed that they wanted to help other families dealing with the same thing.

When she looks back on the time before Renate was found dead at her Houston home, after years of abusive relationships, she would have acted differently.

“Oh, we don’t have enough time in a day,” Hall says. “I wish I’d known the value of listening. I reacted and said to my sister, ‘Just leave. You can do it. Just leave. We’re here for you. Just leave.’ And I didn’t understand all of the other things that were happening behind the scenes. And that happened, again, going back to what we want to accomplish with Purple Leash Project.”

She’s working with Purina to support the project, which aims to eliminate one of the many challenges people face in leaving abusive situations: the lack of domestic violence shelters that accommodate pets. An estimated 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience domestic abuse, according to the project, and the numbers are surging during the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-eight percent of victims choose to stay in the abusive situations rather than leave their beloved pets behind. Yet just 10 percent of domestic violence shelters accept them. People can support Purple Leash Project on Thursday, Oct. 22 by posting a photo of themselves wearing purple and with their pet, using the hashtag #PurpleLeashProject. They can also make a donation to the cause to receive a purple leash or cat collar.

It was something Hall hadn’t considered before her advocacy, even though she adores her rescued Chihuahua named May Luv (who doesn’t want her age printed, Hall says) and a Senegal parrot with the moniker of — wait for it — Josephine Birdker.

“As a result of being educated by working with Safe Horizon and with Purina, I wondered, ‘Did she stay in the situation she was in because she didn’t know where she would go or where she would take her dog?’” Hall says, “There’s so many layers to it. But my sister’s journey included her beloved Mini-Me. And she named the dog Mini-Me because my sister had sandy blonde hair and the dog had sandy blonde hair. But pets are our families and they’re there with us unconditionally. And Mini-Me was with my sister unconditionally on her journey.”

Hall says the realization stopped her in her tracks and brought about a “flood of emotion.”

The former Today show co-host explains that talking about all this, sharing such personal stories with others is what led her to wanting to host her own talk show.

“Absolutely, yes, the best of who I am as a human being and also as a journalist and a person who hosts a talk show is learning the value of just that,” Hall says. “When we launched our show, I said we wanted to be a traditional daytime talk show. Of course, we’ll laugh together but we also have to cry together and we also have to find inspiration and find ways to activate our heart and this particular project activated my heart. You know, you want to jump up and say, ‘How can I change this? How can I help?’ And that’s what I pour into the talk show but also I hope that I’m pouring into my personal journey.”

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