Wilton community leaders: Here's how to seek help for domestic violence

Wilton Police Department's Robert Cipolla was one of the speakers at a conversation on addressing domestic violence, hosted by the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force on April 28.

Wilton Police Department’s Robert Cipolla was one of the speakers at a conversation on addressing domestic violence, hosted by the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force on April 28.

Stephanie Kim / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — “We want to influence people to make healthy decisions, and not out of fear.”

Those words, stated by Nikkia Ellis of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, echoed the sentiments of numerous speakers to follow who gave viewers insight on domestic violence tendencies, solutions and preventions during a virtual conversation hosted by the Wilton Domestic Task Force on Wednesday.

Community members were invited to the conversation — some of whom stayed anonymous due to the triggering nature of the topic — and town leaders advised listeners how to separate oneself from an abusive situation.

“Our role as police officers is unique,” said Wilton Police Department’s Robert Cipolla, who has been in the force for 15 years and a member of the domestic violence task force since 2013. “Our paramount concern is victim safety.”

Cipolla explained how police officers play an important role in determining the risks of abusive situations and establishing probable cause in circumstances of outward violence or other predatory behaviors such as stalking.

He stated that, at times, assessing a situation where a victim requires immediate intervention in an abusive situation is difficult, when that same victim does not wish to press charges.

“We are confronted at times where we get called and the person who called wants us to intervene but not to arrest the individual,” he said, adding that the department’s primary goal is to prevent victims from “getting hurt.”

That situation is complicated when victims begin to believe their abuser, said Ann Rodwell-Lawton, director of program development and quality assurance at DVCC.

“Why it is complex is that victims can love their abusers,” Rodwell-Lawton said. “We can love the people that hurt us.”

Rodwell-Lawton and Ellis stressed that abuse does not fit into one simple category, but can be diagnosed and treated differently. The DVCC works with victims of abuse to recognize the patterns of behavior and begin the process of separation. Unfortunately, Ellis pointed out that “the most dangerous time is when (victims) are trying to leave the situation.”

According to statistics presented by Ellis and researched by the DVCC, one in four women and one in seven men have experienced physical violence by their partner in their lifetime. On average, that victim of abuse will attempt to leave seven times before finally freeing themselves of the situation.

While those suffering from domestic violence can go to the DVCC, and also the police in extreme situations, the conversation informed Wilton residents that there are other community members who play a role in lending an ear and a hand.

“We want to make our families and individuals as strong as possible and people need that support,” said the Rev. Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilton.

Norman said his parish, as well as others in town, aim to help victims in any way possible. He said that includes paying for hotel stays for individuals who need to remove themselves from a situation and providing food.

He added that he understands there may be a gender barrier that women in town may feel more comfortable going to another woman.

“We have a lot of female clergy,” he said. “So if they don’t want to talk to me, they can go talk to almost anyone in the Wilton clergy.”

For more information on addressing domestic violence issues, visit www.dvccct.org or call (203) 588-9100.