Story by: Amanda Cuda

BRIDGEPORT — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Center for Family Justice will hold a virtual vigil to honor 14 area victims of domestic violence homicide and raise awareness about the prevalence of abuse.

The Center for Family Justice offers shelter and other services to victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Bridgeport and surrounding towns.

The vigil, which will include political leaders and law enforcement officials from each of the six local communities the center serves, will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 on Facebook (@CenterforFamilyJustice). It will be broadcast again on Facebook at noon on Oct. 23.

The event comes at a time when rates of domestic violence have reportedly spiked in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as victims were forced to shelter in place for prolonged periods of time with their abusers. Officials at the center reported that calls to state domestic violence hotlines spiked by as much as 56 percent at the pandemic’s peak in spring.

“While lockdowns have ended for many, the crisis remains for anyone experiencing domestic abuse or violence or living with its aftermath,” Debra A. Greenwood, president and CEO of The Center for Family Justice, said in a news release. “While we cannot gather together this year to pay tribute to the lives of victims lost to domestic violence, it remains critical that we shine a spotlight on this devastating issue impacting our communities.”

In March, the center staff routinely helped approximately three to five new clients a week. More recently, those numbers have spiked to more than 20 new clients a week, as victims have more freedom to come forward, seek help and tell their stories, the center said.

This vigil will focus on community empowerment, encouraging local residents to speak out against acts of gender-based violence and oppression in their communities. The is encouraging its supporters to get involved in the national #1Thing campaign, which promotes the idea that everyone can do something to end domestic violence.

In keeping with that theme, local mayors, police chiefs and first selectmen will participate in the vigil, sharing suggestions for simple ways anyone can work to end domestic violence and abuse.

Also participating in the vigil will be local youth who are part of CFJ’s Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport program, a summer camp and year-long mentoring program.

These teens will participate in the solemn tribute to the 14 adults and children from Connecticut who were victims of domestic violence homicides in 2019, including Jennifer Farber Dulos, of New Canaan, and Catherine Taylor, of Fairfield.

The center’s domestic violence hotline can be reached at 203-384-9559 and the hotline for sexual abuse is 203-333-2233.

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