Domestic violence center ready for holiday calls
Two men enter Norwalk Hospital; one has a ruptured eardrum and his partner won’t leave his side. The situation seems peculiar, so the nurse asks the partner to go grab a cup of coffee while she treats the new patient. Once he leaves, she hands the patient a Domestic Violence Crisis Center card.
A woman arrives at the DVCC’s doorstep, pregnant with twins and a 3-yearold on her hip. She gives birth soon after at Norwalk Hospital and the twins’ first days of life are spent in a domestic violence safehouse.
“That really bothered me and stuck with me,” said Kevin Shippy, DVCC executive director. “But on the flip side, when she came home from the hospital, she had 15 (safehouse residents) waiting for her there.”
They decorated her room, bought baby clothing, diapers and onesies and cared for the 3-yearold while she nursed the twins, he said.
“Talk about having her back,” Shippy said.
Survivors of domestic violence are referred to the DVCC through multiple points of entry including a bilingual hotline, the court system and word of mouth.
As the holiday season arrives, Shippy and staff are preparing for increased calls for help.
“This is like our tax season,” said Pamela Davis, director of legal services. “It’s so busy, and I think here’s sort of the secret: People are putting pressure on themselves to keep the family together on the holidays, there’s financial pressure, often alcohol is involved and it seems to be there’s a decrease in the number of divorces filed December through January but a huge increase in the number of domestic arrests.”
“We don’t take vacations now,” she added. “It’s a very busy time.”
Shippy said Christmas and Christmas Eve are the second and third busiest days of the year for the DVCC and police departments. The highest number of domestic-violence related calls come in on Super Bowl Sunday. Police departments, such as New Canaan, double shifts that day, Shippy said.
From Fiscal Year 201718, there were more than 1,200 domestic violence arrests in Norwalk and Stamford. Thirty-six percent of the criminal docket in Norwalk and Stamford courts were domestic violence-related during that time-frame, Davis said.
She oversees attorney advocates and victim’s advocates at the DVCC and will work on the most serious of cases in court.
“We follow the cases from the inception through the life of the case, which in domestic violence cases is anywhere from six months to two years,” Davis said. “Often times there’s some overlap between the victim who suffered domestic violence and children who have been victims in the same home. Ninety-six percent of women that have suffered domestic violence abuse in an inter-partner (relationship) have also suffered sex abuse by the same person.”
To help combat that, the organization offers two emergency safehouses (in Norwalk and Stamford), legal services (which Davis runs), employment and educational opportunities, financial assistance (if the survivor is cut off from funds by the abuser) and counseling services (like safety planning and crisis intervention).
According to data collected by the DVCC, it takes six different incidences of abuse before a survivor will emancipate themselves from the abuser.
“Studies show financial control is the number one reason why victims don’t leave their partners,” Shippy said.
Another reason, the DVCC executive director said, is fear of deportation.
“If you are an immigrant or undocumented individual, you’re more fearful of ICE and the possibility of being deported,” he said. “People are opting for taking abuse for fear of the potential of deportation.”
Davis had another reason victims stay with their abusers — fear if they file for divorce or move away from the abuser, they’ll lose custody of their children — even though it isn’t true.
“It’s misinformation,” she said.
If a victim does manage to leave their abuser and winds up at the DVCC, their first stop is often a DVCC safehouse.
Right now, both safehouses are at capacity, said Lourdine Pierre,the safehouses manager. But if a person calls for help, the group will either refer the person to other services or find a way to make arrangements at one of the safehouses, which provide clothing, toiletries, food and anything a person needs to live.
To ensure safety, no one is allowed to visit, client’s can’t release the address, clients must turn of location trackers on their electronic devices, the safehouses use only one taxi service and no one is allowed to order food or other items to the facilities, Pierre said. It takes courage and planning to get out of a domestic violence situation, she added.
“People think (domestic violence) only touches under-educated and financially challenged people and we’re here to tell you it touches all ethnicities and some of the most affluent homes,” Shippy said.
For example, the average household in Wilton is $800,000 and the DVCC provided more than $350,000 in equivalent legal consultation services to residents in Wilton in Fiscal Year 2017-18.
The DVCC is able to do so thanks to funding from federal grants like the Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Crime Act, state funding, and donations.
Pamela Davis, director of legal services for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center
Kevin Shippy, executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center