Domestic violence was center stage in Connecticut Friday, at two press conferences addressing needs in the state.
“The fact is that abuse is under-reported,” said State Senator Alex Bergstein (D) – Greenwich. “If she can summon the superhuman strength to leave, that’s when danger peaks.”
There were 11 women and three men in Connecticut killed in intimate partner homicides in 2019, and two of those cases were murder-suicides.
Bergstein discussed proposed legislation to help domestic violence victims in New Haven, while officials got a tour of the new “CT Safe Connect” network at the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Glastonbury.
New Legislation Focused on Helping Domestic Violence Victims
Bergstein and Connecticut Protective Moms introduced the “Child Safety First” Bill.
The goal is to protect families from harm during court proceedings.
“Women in abusive relationships are scared into submission and when they do find the courage to leave, they are intimated into silence by the legal system,” said Bergstein.
“Let’s remember than an abused women often stays only because her abuser has threatened her children.”
Leaders discussed the different kinds of abuse including economic, control and isolation.
Dr. Evan Stark was a founder of one of America’s first domestic violence shelters, the New Haven Project for Battered Women.
“Networks are committing coercive control,” said Dr. Stark. “It’s not just an individual man and they are committing against all the women and children in that family, boy’s as well as girls.”
The state has a seen series of domestic violence cases in Meriden, Ansonia and in New Cannan. State Police say the latest high-profile case is that of New Cannan mother Jennifer Dulos. Dulos’ estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, is charged with her murder, though he denies the charges, and Jennifer remains missing.
"Jennifer's disappearance remains a tragic mystery. Using it to advance legislative change is mere crisis mongering. Hysteria is not a sound basis for public policy,” Dulos' attorney Norm Pattis said.
Bergstein brought up Dulos and the need to protect women who may be in a similar position.
“We are wishing a light on it and I would say that anybody who uses the word hysteria in the context of speaking about a woman is attacking the credibility of all women,” said Bergstein.
Resources to Help Domestic Violence Victims
The new “CT Safe Connect” network at the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence is aimed at making it easier for domestic violence victims to get help.
“A lot of times they are isolated, they don’t have any emotional support or they don’t know anyone in the area, they’re new, so having someone they can go directly to, who will be there to support them, is very important for them,” said Laura Reyes, the advocacy coordinator.
Reyes is one of the first people to answer the call for help. There are several like her, answering emails, calls and online chats that come through the website.
“They will be matched efficiently and safely with those agencies – and there are 18 of them across the state -- who can bring them their best services and appropriate services in the safest way,” said Mary-Jane Foster, president and CEO of Interval House.
Advocates can speak multiple languages any time day or night, because domestic violence can happen to anyone.
“It is imperative that we get the word out that we are here, that we have resources and we can get you to your next best place,” said Foster.
Law enforcement also spoke about the value of CT Safe Connect in their work. Officers said people are often afraid to talk about their situation with officers, so this also helps guide people to safety.