There are no purple ribbons on the trees in Wilton Center this year. The ribbons have always signified domestic violence calls answered each year by Wilton police — one ribbon for each incident.
No ribbons does not mean no domestic violence.
This year, the students in Wilton High’s PeaceWorks program have changed things up. First, they have substituted purple pinwheels for the ribbons and are calling it the Winds of Hope campaign.
Second, they put in four times as many pinwheels as actual domestic calls logged by police, to reflect the FBI statistic that for every reported incident, there are four more that go unreported. Thus, although there were 43 calls, there are 172 pinwheels.
For those familiar with this project, 43 seems like a sharp downturn from previous years. Last year, there were 88 purple ribbons, but there have not been half as many calls. The reduction is due to the way police are now classifying the calls, separating verbal altercations from those that involve acts of violence.
Wilton police use the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) when responding to domestic complaints. Officers screen the victims by asking them a series of specific questions, and should their responses indicate a high level of danger, the victim will be offered an opportunity to immediately speak by phone with a domestic violence hotline advocate, at which time safety concerns will be addressed. After the phone call, officers help the victim implement any safety plan that has been developed.
Of 30 cases since the beginning of this year, 17 were given this assessment. Ten victims were believed to be in “high danger” and eight were put in touch with a counselor right away. Two victims declined. Use of this program is critical to getting help to victims quickly, but police cannot help — no one can help — if domestic violence goes unreported.
Still, 43 calls means 43 times someone was willing to come forward. Those pinwheels signify the courage of victims and dedication of those committed to ending domestic violence.
Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there have been a few events dedicated to raising funds and awareness.You may have seen the Peace-Works bake sale last Saturday or attended the Open House fund-raiser on Oct. 15. This week, Wilton High School is decorated for domestic violence awareness.
And tonight, Lt. Robert Cipolla has organized a spin fund-raiser at JoyRide Wilton beginning at 7:30 to benefit the Domestic Violence Crisis Center.
Do not let October be the only month we address this issue. We must use every day to lead by example, treating one another — especially those we love most — with compassion and respect.