Story by: Beth Fitzpatrick
Bridgeport, Ct—Domestic and sexual abuse and violence do not stop because of a pandemic. Indeed, experts at The Center for Family Justice, which provides crisis and supportive services to victims in six local communities, are concerned that abuse may actually escalate as people are forced to live in close proximity for extended periods of time in an effort to diminish the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“It’s a particularly scary time to be a victim of any kind of abuse,” said Debra A. Greenwood, President & CEO of The Center for Family Justice, which provides crisis and supportive services to victims in the communities of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull. “As people experience the acute stress caused by social isolation, and the anxiety that comes with it, we want victims to know we’re working diligently to keep them connected to services they may need more than ever.”
In the interest of public health, The Center for Family Justice is temporarily adapting the way it provides these crisis services.
While its Kathie’s Place safe house, which provides a temporary home to individuals and families leaving abusive relationships, remains staffed and fully operational, CFJ has temporarily closed its main offices at 753 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. The majority of its staff is now working remotely and connecting with clients via telephone or virtual meetings, explained Greenwood.
“While it was critical to do this to keep our staff healthy and safe, it’s really important for our clients to know we are there if they need us,” she said. “We have found they are just happy to be able to connect with someone.”
In response to coronavirus, CFJ has announced the following measures related to its operations:
- Its Bridgeport headquarters will remain closed to the public until at least March 30.
- Its annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, scheduled this year for April 25 in Fairfield, has been converted into a virtual fundraiser.
- Its crisis hotlines for both domestic and sexual violence will remain fully staffed and operational 24 hours a day.
- Its drop-off donation and volunteer program are suspended until at least April 17.
- Its staff has been equipped with the resources needed to work remotely and are continuing to provide services to clients virtually and by telephone.
- Its staff has been instructed to not hold any in-person meetings, trainings or other programming until at least April 17.
- Its attorneys will hold consultations with clients via telephone or virtual meeting.
- Its court-based Advocacy Team will continue to support victims in State Superior Court in Bridgeport during criminal arraignments, but will connect with them by phone after arraignments have concluded for the day.
Greenwood noted while there has not been a marked increase in calls to CFJ’s hotlines, she anticipates the coming weeks domestic and sexual violence programs throughout the state and country expect to see an increase in clients. “While stress isn’t an excuse for intimate partner or family violence, we know that in any dynamic where someone is being subjected to physical, emotional or financial abuse, things are likely to get worse in the coming weeks and months,” she said
Greenwood added the economic and personal hardships so many are facing as a result of the pandemic will likely challenge CFJ’s efforts to raise the money it needs to provide crisis services. “We’ve had to pivot in ways that will really tax our resources and we will have to work even harder to raise the money we need to do this incredibly vital work,” she said.
Anyone interested in supporting CFJ to support its clients in crisis is encouraged to visit CenterforFamilyJustice.org for details on how to make a donation to support its mission.