Domestic violence happens in even the safest of towns
Even though Wilton was recently ranked the fourth safest municipality in Connecticut, said Wilton resident and Domestic Violence Crisis Center Board of Directors member Lindsay Sheehy, “we cannot forget that violence can happen inside our homes.”
Domestic violence, said Sheehy, is happening "every day, right here, in our beloved town of Wilton."
The crisis center, 16 River Street in Norwalk, offers free confidential services to Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Weston residents impacted by domestic violence.
In 2014-15, 3,322 people benefited directly from the crisis center’s services, which “range from crisis intervention to long-term solutions that will help them safely move towards a life free from abuse,” said media advocate Kathy Lake.
“In more than one instance,” said Lake, “DVCC has responded to severely battered women from Wilton in the hospital, assisting them with safety planning and connecting them to multiple DVCC services and community resources.”
Last year alone, the crisis center helped 79 Wilton residents. The year before that, it assisted 91 Wilton residents.
Although domestic violence can happen to anyone “regardless of race, religion, culture, socio-economic level, educational attainment, gender, sexual preference or age,” said Lake, 85% of domestic violence victims are women, and women 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk for non-fatal intimate partner violence.
“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined,” said Lake, noting that “approximately 75% of the persons who commit domestic violence are male.”
According to the crisis center website, 25,000 people in Fairfield County were reached by its programs last year, and 414 were sheltered in its safehouses in 2014-15.
The crisis center is committed to “promoting the fundamental right of all individuals to be safe in their personal relationships,” according to its website.
A critical element of that mission is the prevention of interpersonal violence, said Sheehy, and The Mark Nickel Fund for Wilton Families Impacted by Domestic Violence has been “extremely instrumental” in supporting services in Wilton.
Former Wilton resident Marge Nickel started the fund two years ago, in memory of her son Mark, in order to help Wilton families living in violent and abusive relationships.
Since its inception, The Mark Nickel Fund has raised more than $100,000, and the crisis center has helped more than 170 Wilton residents through counseling, safety planning, legal assistance and ongoing support.
DVCC Executive Director Rachelle Kucera Mehra said the health of a community “correlates directly with the health, well-being and safety of its residents.”
“People who are not safe in their own homes — who live in fear of the person who is supposed to love them — should be able to look to their community for help and support,” said Mehra.
The Mark Nickel Fund has not only helped provide critical services for Wilton residents impacted by domestic violence, said Mehra, but it has also provided “a less tangible, but equally important service by seeking to remove the stigma that is still sometimes associated with domestic violence, even in these more enlightened times.
“Marge Nickel has talked about the devastating effects abusive relationships can have on individuals and families and she has consistently emphasized how important it is for people to get help,” said Mehra.
“She recognizes that some people may be reluctant to seek help; she encourages them to shake off that reluctance; she sings the praises of the services provided by DVCC, and she supports DVCC’s efforts to provide those services.”
Mehra said Nickel is a woman who, “through quiet determination, enormous generosity and the love of her children and her community,” continues to have an impact that is “both measurable and unmeasurable on the town of Wilton.”
Sheehy said The Mark Nickel Fund has also been “a key driver” in supporting the programs of DVCC’s educational platform PeaceWorks, which engages young people in programs and activities that address conflict resolution and bullying and promote tolerance, empathy, respect and healthy relationships.
Wilton High School has a Teen PeaceWorks Club, which educates peers, parents and the community about dating violence.
Over the past two years, PeaceWorks programs have reached more than 3,000 Wilton elementary, middle and high school students. According to the DVCC website, 22,566 Fairfield County students received PeaceWorks preventive education in 2014-15.
“We are all indebted to DVCC and The Mark Nickel Fund for providing services to Wilton residents every day of the week” said Sheehy, “and for helping us to imagine a Wilton — and a world — where people are free from the threat of interpersonal violence.”
Other programs and services
DVCC’s Training Advocacy Project that provides presentations and training to various professional and community groups and organizations in order to raise awareness about domestic violence.
“DVCC also advocates for legislation that will benefit victims of domestic violence across Connecticut and create permanent social change,” said Lake.
Over the past several years, Lake said, the DVCC has made “concerted efforts to reach victims of domestic violence in the places they are most likely to be found,” such as hospitals, courthouses and police stations.
“Programs such as our Medical Advocacy Project provide significant and ongoing training so that victims are recognized and referred to DVCC for assistance,” she said.
Lake said the Wilton Police Department also partners with the DVCC in the Lethality Assessment Project (LAP), “whereby victims determined to be at high risk of danger from their abusers are connected immediately by police to a DVCC advocate.”
Over the past two years, she said, 76 such calls have been screened by the Wilton police.
Other Domestic Violence Crisis Center services include, but are not limited to:
- Court and legal services.
- Group and individual counseling.
- Children’s services.
- Medical advocacy.
- Multilingual services.
- A 24-hour hotline (1-888-774-2900).
- SustainAbilityCT, a financial, education and housing advocacy program.
- EsperanzaCT, a Spanish language website and 24-hour phone service line.
To learn more about the DVCC, visit dvccct.org .