Raising domestic violence awareness, one ribbon at a time

On Sunday, Oct. 5, purple ribbons were hung in Wilton Center for each of the 88 incidents of domestic violence reported in Wilton since last October — a yearly tradition of Wilton’s Domestic Violence Task Force.

“We hung 96 ribbons last year, but I don’t want people to have an inflated sense of well-being because the numbers have gone down,” said Jennifer McNamara, task force member of four years.

“Percentagewise, it’s such a small drop, and according to FBI statistics, for every one case reported, four more go unreported.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in October 1987, followed by the passing of the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month commemorative legislation by the U.S. Congress in 1989.

Each October, members of Wilton’s Domestic Violence Task Force and Wilton High School’s PeaceWorks host several events to raise domestic violence awareness and raise funds for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk.

“Domestic violence happens in our town and in every town, so we want to keep people aware and let them know about the crisis center and all its services and let them know that it’s there and it’s free,” said Ms. McNamara.

Members of PeaceWorks held a bake sale at the Village Market on Saturday and Sunday, the proceeds of which will be donated to the crisis center.

“Last year, we raised around $600, and the bake sale was another few hundred dollars,” said Ms. McNamara.

“This year, we hope to do as well as we did last year and, of course, we hope for more.”

Upcoming events

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, from 9:30 to 5:30, the Domestic Violence Task Force will host its annual fund-raiser at Open House in Wilton Center, which Ms. McNamara described as “a wonderful gem in town.”

“We have a nice setup in the morning with coffee and cakes, and there are all kinds of really nice items for people to buy as gifts or for themselves,” she said.

“The task force has been doing the Open House event for nine years, and a percentage of the sales will go to the crisis center.”

Although the number of attendees varies each year, said Ms. McNamara, the Open House event is one of the task force’s most popular Domestic Violence Awareness Month events.

“We usually get a nice turnout and support for the Open House fund-raiser, and the more people that come, the better it is,” she said.

On Monday, Oct. 20, members of PeaceWorks will bring awareness to Wilton High School by decorating the school, and that same day, First Selectman Bill Brennan will read a proclamation at town hall at 10 a.m.

“It’s a short, sweet ceremony where the first selectman comes out and he reads the proclamation about how we stand together and band together to denounce domestic violence as a town and as a community,” said Ms. McNamara.

In recent years, the proclamation ceremony has not had a very big turnout, said Ms. McNamara, and “it would be nice to have more people show up for that.

“Especially in light of what was going on this year with the football player [Ray] Rice — that brought a lot of attention to dating and domestic violence, and how we really need to have no-tolerance policies as a nation and as a world,” said Ms. McNamara.

“Like most important things, it starts in the grassroots support and in your own back yard where you stand up for what you believe is important. For everyone to be safe in their own homes, that’s as basic a need as there is.”

Lethality assessment

On Oct. 1, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced the adoption of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) by Connecticut State Police.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the program is designed to “keep victims of domestic violence safe by encouraging more victims to use shelters, counseling and advocacy and support services.”

The state’s goal is to have all troopers trained during october.

The program is based on 25 years of research conducted by the John Hopkins University School of Nursing, which found that:

  • Only 4% of domestic violence murder victims nationwide had ever availed themselves of domestic violence program services.
  • In 50% of domestic violence-related homicides, officers had previously responded to a call at the scene.
  • The re-assault of domestic violence victims in high danger was reduced by 60% if they went to a shelter.

Maryland, the first state to adopt a lethality assessment program, experienced a 34% drop in intimate partner domestic violence homicides between July 2007 and June 2012.

According to the governor’s press release, hundreds of jurisdictions in 32 states are now using the program, and 33 municipal police departments in Connecticut are using it, including Wilton.

Wilton police Lt. Don Wakeman said Wilton police officers received training on the program about 15 months ago and have used it at domestic complaints ever since.

We have found it to be a helpful tool for officers to use while still on scene at a domestic violence incident,” he told The Bulletin in an email. “The officers will screen a victim by asking them a series of specific questions and should their responses indicate a high level of danger the victim will be offered the opportunity to immediately speak by phone with a domestic violence hotline advocate, at which time immediate safety concerns will be addressed.  Following this phone conversation, the officer will assist the victim in implementing the safety plan developed.

“Should the victim choose not to speak with a hotline advocate the officer will review the lethality factors with the victim to assist with their safety and well being and provide referral information for domestic violence programs.”

National statistics

  • Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Every day, three or more women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to omen — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Connecticut statistics

  • Since 2000, 188 victims have been killed in Connecticut as a result of intimate partner violence.
  • An average of 20,000 family violence incidents in Connecticut result in at least one arrest annually, with 73% of these incidents involving intimate partners.
  • In 2013, one-third of all cases in Connecticut’s criminal courts involve family violence.
  • In any given year, approximately 9,000 restraining order applications are filed in Connecticut’s family courts.

To learn more about Connecticut’s Domestic Violence Crisis Center, visit dvccct.org.