In the Suburbs / Domestic Violence Month but the problem persists
Domestic Violence Month ends next week, but the work to end this traumatic problem plaguing millions of Americans is continuing 365 days a year. According to Debra Greenwood, CEO/president of the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport (centerforfamilyjustice.org), “As more individuals being affected by intimate partner violence are being made aware of the issue and are learning that domestic violence is not just physical, but also emotional, verbal and financial, we in the field as experts are seeing that people are finding support and help, which is documenting higher numbers of cases.”
She added a familiar mantra. Every nine seconds in the U.S., someone is being abused.
Greenwood said in Connecticut last year 14 homicides were documented due to domestic violence. In six of these cases, two of them in Bridgeport, the homicide was committed in front of children. This trauma has a significant impact on a child and can take years, if not a lifetime, to overcome.
I contacted Greenwood, as I have in the past, to ask her to help readers focus on advances and breakthroughs in fighting the domestic violence battle. One of the most interesting new programs, she told me, was that the Center for Family Justice in Connecticut had joined over 130 other centers in the United States “to pilot the only evidence-based Camp for Children dealing with trauma due to domestic and sexual violence and followed a proven model: Camp Hope.
There were 15 other camps across the country that also piloted and measured “hope” for kids which is spearheaded by Camp Hope America in San Diego California. The camp’s 15 years of documentation, measuring the impact of trauma on children is showing a reverse of trauma on the child’s brain, with evidence that these children in time can break the intergenerational cycle of abuse.
Prevention education, which begins at Camp Hope and is being made available for children of all ages in schools, could really have a major impact on potential abusers. Greenwood said funding cuts are not allowing the staff in schools to get to every age-appropriate category, from preschool to college campuses.
She said the center served over 3,800 victims of abuse in eastern Fairfield County last year, and those victims included 30 percent Caucasian, 30 percent African American and 30 percent Hispanic, with 1 percent underserved, LGBTQ, disabled and various other groups in the region.
Another pioneering step the Center for Family Justice has taken is to provide services through an “under one roof” model, as identified by the Department of Justice. Victims go to one place for counseling, support groups, legal services, self-sufficiency classes on where to get a job, write a resume, find a safe environment — safe houses, transitional housing for victims; and wellness (trauma informed programming, meditation, yoga, self care).
Greenwood said once victims have taken the first step and called the center, advocates can introduce them to a new Legal Incubator Program, where they can find an attorney for a pro-bono fee vs. finding an attorney, who is or can be cost-prohibitive.
Sadly, victims may return on a national average as many as 10 times to a domestic violence situation because they don’t have legal or financial support and don’t know they can file for orders.
Greenwood said, “We are proud to have worked diligently with our communities and the International Alliance for Hope to open Connecticut’s first Family Justice Center, first Legal Incubator Program and now first Camp Hope to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse.
Hope really does start here.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday.