Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cen­ter ready for hol­i­day calls

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Ta­tiana Flow­ers To con­tact the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Cri­sis Cen­ter, visit dvc­ or call the bilin­gual hot­line at 1-888-774-2900.

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.

Con­trib­uted photo

Pamela Davis, di­rec­tor of le­gal ser­vices for the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Cri­sis Cen­ter

Ta­tiana Flow­ers / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Kevin Shippy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Cri­sis Cen­ter

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