Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series introducing our partners at Connecticut’s first Family Justice Center, we recently chatted with Anthony Crisci, executive director of the Norwalk-based Triangle Community Center. TCC is Fairfield County’s leading provider of programming for the LGBTQ community. Triangle was also the second community partner to formally join CFJ with an on site presence. 

CFJ: Why did you feel this partnership was important one to the Triangle Community Center?

Anthony Crisci: It is rare when an organization approaches you and is willing to help you accomplish your goals as they are accomplishing their own, but that’s what happened. When we first talked to CFJ’s staff about the Justice Center Model, we were impressed about how it would work from the client’s perspective and we saw a lot of potential for overlap with the people we serve. We are in the early stages of being a social service agency and we were reaching out to some of our members who needed help, but it was hard to reach the folks who were in the Bridgeport area as we are physically located in Norwalk. This seemed like a natural fit.

CFJ: In terms of the clients you serve in the LGBTQ community, what specific concerns did you have about issues pertaining to domestic and sexual violence?

AC: LGBTQ people, particularly gay and lesbian as well as transgender people, experience higher levels of domestic violence than the general population. In many parts of the country, the services are not always ready to help someone who is LGBTQ. This phenomenon particularly applies to men and transgender people, but it can also apply to lesbian women. It’s not uncommon for a domestic violence shelter to be a women’s shelter and not be co-ed. CFJ is one of the few organizations I’m aware of that also houses men. It’s truly uncommon to find services that have been developed for men. At CFJ, there’s an understanding that it’s not a simple or straightforward or one-sided issue. And what CFJ is doing has given them the flexibility to do more in terms of serving more clients in need of these services.

CFJ: What’s been the benefit to your clients?

AC: A lot of our clients are hesitant to access services period. There is a pervasive fear of stigma and discrimination. We know they are being treated at CFJ with cultural competency. The care they are receiving is beyond anything that we can provide. You are able to provide counseling after a traumatic incident. They can got to CFJ with the confidence that they know things are going to be handled well. It’s lead to success stories simply with our clients just reporting incidents and getting help for what’s happened to them. It’s also beneficial that you are doing things in one safe place. We know that in our community so much reporting falls off the radar. Someone may be too intimidated to file a police report or go to the hospital. Having everything there takes away some of the fear and stigma.

CFJ: And you’ve been able to make a contribution by being a presence here as well?

AC: One way we’ve been involved is by playing a role in raising LGBTQ cultural competency as part of your training. It provides an edge to any organization and it’s really important to know that you are prioritizing this kind of education. When someone walks in and sees the “safe space” stickers that is a significant thing that someone knows they can feel safe and comfortable. CFJ has really been cutting edge in unrolling this revolutionary model and being at the forefront of this movement in Connecticut. Right from the start CFJ and (President and CEO) Deb (Greenwood) have made it clear from the start this is a priority partnership and that speaks volumes.

CFJ: What are your hopes for the future?

AC: I feel like we are just scratching the service as far as this partnership goes. CFJ is just getting going providing this model and in some ways that’s true for us too. We have been around since 1990, but we’ve only had a staff since 2013. We are up to six staff now and we are beginning to provide clinical services. We’re the only agency of our kind in Fairfield County. We are based in Norwalk, but we serve people as far away as Bridgeport and Danbury, so having this relationship with CFJ has helped us tremendously.