FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Throughout October, local groups from all over Fairfield County have been dedicated to promoting awareness of one of society's taboo subjects – domestic violence.
And it’s not just about promoting awareness of places for victims to go for help. It's also about redesigning ways of educating young people about the problem itself.
To do this, places such as the the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County are working with police, schools and other groups in the community that they serve.
Raising awareness in schools is one of the main ways that the center and others like it work to prevent all forms of abuse – verbal, physical, emotional and financial.
Throughout October, the center, along with other community groups and members, held vigils to raise awareness across Fairfield County and to advocate for those who won’t or don’t feel like they can speak for themselves.
“Our role as advocates for victims of abuse is to let them know that they are very brave and that they’ve taken the first step in healing, which is calling and reaching out,” said Debra Greenwood, executive director of the Center for Women and Families, which serves the people of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.
“Victims blame themselves for being victims,” she said.
There have been high-profile abuse cases earlier this year in Darien, where news anchorman Rob Morrison pleaded guilty in a domestic dispute case, and in Greenwich, where a 55-year-old man was charged with attempted murder in a baseball attack on his wife. Reaching out to children and teaching them that “hands are not for hitting” and getting them to talk to each other about violence is one of the best ways to promote awareness and prevention, Greenwood said.
“We never want to begin at the end, violence. We don’t wait for that you have to be far more effective with your tools,” said Rachelle Kucera Mehra, executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, which serves Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, New Canaan, Darien, Wilton and Weston.
Finding ways to get peer-to-peer conversations started is key, Greenwood said. Not only do people talk about abuse in the home, but they also ultimately talk about bullying, she said. Statistics show that if a bully’s pattern of behavior is not changed by their early 20s, they are more likely to be come an abuser, Mehra said.
The Crisis Center in Norwalk has been working with schools to teach anger management to kindergartners, healthy social media habits to middle schoolers and healthy relationships to high schoolers.
Find a local advocacy group by going to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence website here.