Jennifer McNamara never expected to be leading Wilton\u2019s Domestic Violence Task Force, but she has been the driving force behind it for the past seven years. For her efforts, she will be honored by the Domestic Violence Crisis Center at its Voices of Courage spring luncheon on Thursday, May 24, from 11 to 2 at the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa. For information, visit https:\/\/bit.ly\/2KrC591. \u201cI was really surprised,\u201d McNamara told The Bulletin of learning she would receive the 2018 Voices of Courage Award. \u201cI was really humbled and shocked.\u201d Wilton has been represented at several of the crisis center\u2019s recent luncheons. In 2016 the Mark Nickel Fund for Wilton Families Impacted by Domestic Violence was honored, and last year police Capt. Rob Cipolla was recognized. \u201cI\u2019ve gone to the lunch for the last seven years, and there have been so many dedicated people. I didn\u2019t think of myself [as being honored],\u201d she said. But others have. \u201cJen has been nothing short of tremendous,\u201d Cipolla told The Bulletin. \u201cI\u2019ve been involved with the task force for five years now, and Jen has always remained as that steady force, keeping it moving forward and allowing it to progress to where it is now. She has a very strong commitment to the task force and raising awareness.\u201d McNamara took the reins of the task force pretty much by accident. She and her family had been in town only a year when former leader Jeannine Hackett stepped down in 2011. Impressed that the town had such a task force, she went to an event for interested newcomers. \u201cI was the only one there!\u201d she said with a laugh on being recruited. McNamara did not back down, saying the experience has \u201cbeen challenging but overall I\u2019ve met such great people.\u201d She works closely with the police department, first former Lt. Stephen Brennan, and then Capt. Tom Conlan. Now she works with Cipolla, \u201cwho\u2019s kicked it up a notch,\u201d she said. Armed with a master\u2019s degree in social work \u2014 she is now a licensed clinical social worker \u2014 one of the first events she put together was a program on the effects of domestic violence on children, held at Wilton Library in 2011. It had farther-reaching effects than she could have known at the time. Recently, she said, a co-worker who did not know she was involved told McNamara how effective that program had been. Other programs include a discussion on Internet safety in 2012 and a program on college safety in 2017 that included a screening of The Hunting Ground on college rape cases. The task force also sponsored two performances of The Yellow Dress, in 2013 and 2016, a one-woman play based on the stories of young women who were victims of dating violence. The most recent performance of The Yellow Dress brought an audience of 90 high school students. \u201cWhat a dynamic discussion we had,\u201d McNamara said. \u201cThat was far and away the most thrilling [experience]. The prevention pieces are so important. \u201cIf people can come away knowing something they didn\u2019t know before, that\u2019s exciting.\u201d The main role of the Domestic Violence Task Force is to help educate people and increase awareness of violence in all kinds of close relationships. \u201cIt\u2019s getting the message out that places like the DVCC exist,\u201d she said, \u201cso people know there\u2019s a place to go.\u201d The task force also works with Wilton High School\u2019s Teen PeaceWorks club, which is affiliated with the DVCC. The club works to prevent teen dating violence. Student-led groups raise awareness about the issue and the importance of maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. \u201cJen has always been a liaison for Teen Peaceworks, she\u2019s always that guiding force in terms of hanging the purple ribbons or any bake sales they do to raise funds for donations to DVCC or to put on programming for domestic violence awareness,\u201d Cipolla said. Not all area towns have such a domestic violence task force, and McNamara credits Wilton\u2019s sense of community in holding it together for the last 13 years. She said the issue of shame is still connected to domestic violence, but \u201cI think this past year, with the #MeToo movement, has been the beginnings of lifting that veil of shame. I\u2019m excited for the future. The more we talk about it, the less stigma there is.\u201d It wasn\u2019t until she was an adult that she learned one of her aunts had lived in an abusive situation. As one of the few \u201ccivilians\u201d on the task force \u2014 Barbarajean Siegel and Barbara Holdridge are also active community members \u2014 McNamara, who now works part-time as a social worker for Catholic Charities, welcomes the assistance of Margaret Creeth of the Wilton Youth Council, and Phoebe Musico and Sarah Heath of Wilton Social Services. She is also \u201crejuvenated\u201d by a forthcoming grant from the Wilton Woman\u2019s Club. The club\u2019s spring fund-raiser was dedicated to breaking the cycle of sexual harassment and abuse by supporting the task force and the crisis center. \u201cIt speaks to a lot of people in town wanting cultural change,\u201d she said. She has been speaking with Kim Zemo, the school district\u2019s climate control coordinator, about the health curriculum, and is working on getting a high-profile speaker to come to Wilton. As to whether the task force\u2019s work has had any effect, McNamara said, \u201cFor the kids who\u2019ve taken a leadership role, they\u2019ve come away more empowered and more knowledgeable. For the kids involved, knowledge is power. They know what it is to be in a healthy relationship and what the signs are that aren\u2019t healthy. That\u2019s key.\u201d That also makes for good \u201cbystanders,\u201d McNamara said, meaning if they know someone in trouble, they can reach out. Cipolla said the police welcome community involvement. \u201cAs police, we can\u2019t do our job operating in a vacuum. When we are able to get a group together like the task force, that just increases everybody\u2019s reach,\u201d he said. \u201cPolice bring their contacts, Social Services and community members bring theirs, and with Jen being in the forefront, we can achieve a lot more and reach a lot more people when we all work together. \u201cShe\u2019s a really remarkable woman,\u201d he added. \u201cFrom the police side, we\u2019re grateful for her chairing the task force over the years.\u201d This story was edited to include the contributions of community members Barbarajean Siegel and Barbara Holdridge.