This month, we continue our annual tradition of holding Domestic Violence Awareness Month vigils in the six local communities served by The Center for Family Justice. We began these observances with what we hope becomes a new and meaningful tradition: A joint Oct. 2 vigil held in partnership with the Bridgeport Police Department.
Although great progress has been made in our collective efforts to provide comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence and abuse, 2017 has been a particularly devastating year for those of us who work to support and protect victims of domestic violence here in Connecticut’s largest city.
Twice this year, Bridgeport police officers have responded to homes where women were murdered while their children were present. It’s a deeply disturbing crime pattern that’s been mirrored in domestic violence homicides throughout Connecticut. Of the six intimate partner homicides that have occurred in our state so far this year, four have happened in homes where children were present.
This grim and unacceptable trend is devastating for surviving families as well as the police officers and advocates who respond to these crimes. Perhaps, more importantly, these tragedies are devastating for the children have witnessed them. Inevitably, they become the secondary victims of this violence.
Imagine seeing the person who cares for you most murdered in a place where you should feel safe and protected. The consequences of seeing one parent brutalized by another are vast and enduring. This isn’t trauma that just goes away or a memory that fades. It lingers and has residual consequences that can and do last a lifetime.
And it is violence which has to stop.
So, when we gathered together to raise community awareness during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we did so with the intention of honoring the victims we have lost. Yet more than ever we hope we were also stimulating an important conversation –one we must have–about the need to work together to break the cycles of violence.
There’s are several reasons why– as domestic violence victim advocates and law enforcement officers-we are strong allies in this fight. Consider this important fact: One in three women in this country experiences some kind of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. That makes domestic violence more prevalent than breast cancer and diabetes combined. So any time a woman is sitting with three of her friends, someone at the table has been impacted. It’s an unacceptable statistic which deserves more attention.
Women, of course, are far from alone in their victimization. National statistics show one in four men experiences or witnesses some kind of domestic violence in their lifetime. And intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ community is a growing problem just beginning to receive the attention it deserves.
Domestic violence has real and devastating consequences for police officers too. Between 2010 and 2014 more than 20 percent of the officers killed in the line of duty lost their lives while responding to domestic violence calls, according to analysis by the National Police Officers Law Enforcement Memorial.
Domestic violence calls are often volatile and unpredictable. They not only put officers at risk, the worst cases subject them to the residual fallout of family violence too. Responding to a household where parents have been injured or killed in front of their children is heartbreaking for everyone involved, including first responders.
Since becoming the state’s first Family Justice Center in 2017, CFJ has worked in close partnership with the Bridgeport Police Department to support victims from the city at its Fairfield Avenue headquarters. A Bridgeport Police Officer now keeps regular office hours at CFJ to be on site for victims with questions and concerns about their safety and rights. We believe this comprehensive, under-one-roof approach to helping victims will improve outcomes.
Still, we must join voices as a community to remind victims, their friends and family that there are people willing and ready to help them lead lives free of trauma and abuse. We can all help by refusing to be bystanders. If you see a neighbor, friend or loved one being abused please call 911 and report the problem. It is the only way the police can help.
And if you have questions or concerns about domestic violence in your life or the life of someone you care about, please call The Center for Family Justice. Our hotlines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our domestic hotline number is 203-384-9559.
We are ready to help and stand united in our efforts to see no more children lose a parent at the hands of another.
—Debra A. Greenwood is the President & CEO of The Center for Family Justice
—Armando J. Perez is the Chief of Police in the City of Bridgeport