Take a stand against abuse


As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, research is beginning to confirm a disturbing trend that has worried me since our first lockdown in March 2020. For too many children, home is no place safe. In fact, for some kids, it’s been downright dangerous.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control released a series of statistics that reflect the staggering 25% increase in demand for domestic and sexual violence services we have experienced at the Bridgeport Center for Family Justice since the start of this pandemic.

While we’ve long understood that COVID-19 was causing a second pandemic of abuse as victims were forced to shelter in place with their abusers, it appears children and teens suffered the brunt of the collateral damage. .

The CDC reports that the past few years have had a particularly devastating impact on the physical and mental health of adolescents. More than 55% said they had experienced emotional abuse at home, while 11.3% said they had been physically abused. More than 44% said they had felt feelings of “lingering sadness” and around 9% said they had attempted suicide.

As we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month, I find these CDC findings deeply troubling.

For starters, they illustrate all the work we have yet to do to break the generational cycles of abuse in our communities.

We know that children who grow up in unhealthy homes, where physical or sexual abuse is a constant threat during their formative years, are much more likely to carry that abuse into adulthood. They are more likely to be depressed and struggle in school. They are much more likely to get into unhealthy relationships and abuse their own children. They are much more susceptible to drug addiction and suicide.

To give these already vulnerable children a better and safer future, it is imperative that we intervene in their lives as early as possible.

As a nationally accredited children’s advocacy center, CFJ is proud to be at the forefront of providing comprehensive crisis and support services to abused children and adolescents. Last year we worked with over 209 children who had experienced the extreme trauma of sexual or physical abuse. We have worked with hundreds of others who were secondary victims of abuse, having witnessed it in their homes. With the support of the Victim Services Office Victims of Crime Act and the Petit Family Foundation, we are able to provide these scared and hurt young people with free therapeutic services to help them process and overcome their trauma.

We are currently preparing for the sixth summer of Elizabeth M. Pfriem Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport, our summer camp and year-long Pathways to HOPE engagement and mentorship program for youth ages 7-17 who have been victims of domestic violence. or of a sexual nature. Through these two interconnected programs, we work to rebuild the hope and self-esteem of abused children and adolescents, helping them regain some of the childhood they lost.

But we can do more to keep these children healthy, safe and supported. Currently in the state of Connecticut, we are unable to fully meet the needs of the many children affected by domestic violence because child advocate positions are not fully funded. Indeed, we only receive about $11,000 per year to fund these much-needed roles. CFJ is one of 18 domestic violence agencies operating shelters in Connecticut that have called on the General Assembly to begin providing adequate funding to pay the salaries of child advocates, so we can protect and adequately support children who have witnessed and experienced physical and emotional abuse.

Given that we work with hundreds of abused children each year, the least we can do as a caring state is to fully fund at least one of these positions for every domestic violence agency in the state. .

And of course, we can all do something to support children who have been abused. On Saturday, April 23, CFJ will hold its tenth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in downtown Fairfield. This fundraising walk is also an awareness event, held each year during Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness Month, which helps fund our Camp HOPE program.

By walking a mile on April 23, you will join us in the effort to take a stand against gender-based violence in our communities and say, “It’s over! It is time to stand with these children and help them heal from this second pandemic of abuse.

Debra A. Greenwood is President and CEO of the Center for Family Justice, which provides free, confidential services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in the communities of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.


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