In the Suburbs / ‘Put me out of business,’ says Center for Family Justice CEO
I had the good fortune recently of capturing 35 minutes of time from busy, Center for Family Justice CEO, Debra Greenwood to get an update on the Center’s Sept. 25 “Speaking of Women” event, violence prevention programs and Domestic Violence Month in October.
What is so wonderful about Deb is that she loves her role, but she hates dealing everyday with sexual and domestic violence and child abuse, the three cornerstones of the Center’s work.
“When people ask me, ‘How is business?’ I hate telling them that business is too good,” Greenwood said. “Frankly, we want to be out of business! Nothing would make me happier than to never see another case of our three cornerstone problems. But we have a long way to go before that ever happens.”
Greenwood started our chat by focusing on- “Speaking of Women”, the Center’s annual signature fundraising event. Proceeds from this high-level luncheon event are critical to continuing the funding for all the services offered, Greenwood pointed out. Keynoting the program will be television commentator and domestic violence advocate Tamron Hall, whose sister was tragically murdered and the predator never found.
According to Hall’s biography, “She has been recognized by Day One, a New York-based advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, for her work and support of their efforts. She wrote a personal account of her sister’s death for the Grio.com in 2010, which garnered praise from several outlets for its honesty and attention to the often-overlooked issue of domestic and dating violence.”
The “Speaking of Women” event at the Waterview in Monroe will be hosted by Anna Dapp of Star 99.9 radio. In addition to Tamron Hall, there will be two other significant speakers. One will be a victim who became a survivor and the other speaker will be retiring Fairfield Police Chief Gary McNamara, who has played a vital role, according to Greenwood, in the Center’s highly successful program, Walk a Mile in her Shoes every April.
McNamara also chairs the 10-year-old White Ribbon Campaign, which originated in Canada after a brutal murder of women, and supports the Center’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. McNamara runs a group of 25-30 male advocates for violence prevention from diverse backgrounds like corporate, nonprofit and manufacturing areas. The group meets once a month at the Center to talk about cornerstone issues that the Center faces, Greenwood added.
“Along with “Speaking of Women,” the Center is planning 8 vigils during Domestic Violence Month in October. —The Fairfield event will be Thursday , October 18th and we plan to read the name of 17 young homicide victims who lost their lives this past year. Additional vigils will include two in Bridgeport, one at the Police Memorial and then at the University of Bridgeport. Others will be at Monroe Town Hall Green, Easton Community Center, Stratford Town Hall Green and Trumbull Library. Dates are on the Center’s web site -- www.centerforfamilyjustice.org)
Said Greenwood, “Chief McNamara is also launching, with board member, Matt Reale, an exciting breakfast program, “Speaking With Men” on November 15 and that event will include a national speaker from the domestic violence arena, Ted Bunch, at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn. We’re really hoping to bring in a mix of men who are interested in standing up for victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and abuse against Children. We welcome anyone but it would be great to have high school and college coaches, college students and professionals who are determined to speak out against sexual violence and domestic violence.
Greenwood pointed out that in the two years since the Center for Family Justice opened its doors her team has probably expanded awareness by 50 percent in the six towns covered. The towns include Fairfield, Bridgeport, Easton, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.
“We have helped 1,379 domestic violence victims and 491 sexual violence victims. Our civil/legal and criminal court cases topped 2,636 this year. And calls to the domestic violence hotline totaled 1,146 with 107 calls to the sexual violence hotline.
The Center for Family Justice, which is the first family justice center in Connecticut, has been opened just two years, but quickly has evolved into a hub for counseling in the prevention of sexual, violence, domestic violence and child abuse counseling to clients at no charge. The Center also involves law enforcement advocacy, legal work on behalf of clients and other related areas, all at no charge..
“Our results have been excellent and awareness is growing,” Greenwood pointed out. “One of our most exciting accomplishments has been our new camp environment for boys and girls 7 to 17, who were willing to disclose their abuse in a group environment. Our victim safe houses are completely secure and we are offering educational programs for schools.”
Greenwood added that anyone, female, male or child, who suspects being a victim, should call the domestic abuse hotline (203) 384-9559 or the sexual abuse hotline (203) 333-2233. The number for the Center is 203-334-6154.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.