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We should all feel safe in our own homes

The Lakeville Journal Co. Editorial

There are some reading this who have experienced violence in their homes in the past year. For some of us, it may have been the first time such ugly and unwelcome treatment surfaced in what should be a place of refuge. But the repercussions of the life- and society-changing pandemic still affect all our lives, no matter what we may  try to gloss over out of self preservation.

Would it be better to be able to go back to pre-COVID life? Few of us at the time, say 2019,  would have said, “This moment is the ideal, to which we will always ever after strive.” Yet that happened.

So we try to make the best of what we do have. And bear in mind that we may look back on this time, too, and hold it up as the new ideal for one reason or another. But for those who have found too much too overwhelming to handle and resorted to abusing their closest companions, and those who are their targets, it’s important to remember there is help available to deal with it. One such place is Women’s Support Services (WSS) in Lakeville.

Speaking with WSS Executive Director Betsey Mauro recently, she was clear about the fact that the reasons for patterns of abuse in any home are complicated, and that it’s hard to point to one cause for it. There are behaviors and patterns of power and control that people use to harm a partner, and cause and effect aren’t that easy to pin down.

But, over the pandemic shutdown phase, she said, it was less safe for people to reach out to hotlines for help. The level of violence escalated, there was much more stress, but people waited longer to reach out for help because they were often in constant proximity to their abuser.

Mauro said the client need has gone up about 30% in the past two years. Their shelter, and all those across the state, are busy and full. The shelters all cooperate to be sure clients are cared for, however. “It’s an honor for us to do this work,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without the support of the community.”

WSS is in its 40th year serving area communities, and Mauro said they are here because of a commitment, their own and that of regional residents, to a healthier community. Abuse cuts across all lines. “It’s often hidden,” she said. But it’s likely that each of us has been affected in one way or another by violence in the home.

Mauro was also clear that donations are crucial to their being able to continue their work. Community support and encouragement keep them going. Their mission is to build trust with their clients, to make sure that traumatized people feel safe. “We want to support them and want them to succeed.”

This is Domestic Violence Awareness month, so a time to consider healthier approaches to our own relationships and to support those who have continuing challenges that may cause irreparable damage.

Women’s Support Services

Key Statistics and Services

July 2021 to June 2022

Provided support services to 821 clients, 412 of whom were new clients. This is a nearly 30% increase in two years.

The composition of new clients includes 381 adults and 31 children, 297 female, 111 male clients and 4 clients who chose ‘Other.’

Responded to 1485 hotline crisis requests ­— a nearly 65% increase in two years.

Provided emergency shelter to 20 people for a total of 2,135 nights of shelter. This included 11 women, 2 men, and 7 children. Provided criminal and civil court advocacy and support to 670 victims of family violence — a 44% increase over two years. Conducted 194 prevention workshops to children and teens in area schools.

Provided criminal and civil court advocacy and support to 670 victims of family violence — a 44% increase over two years.

Conducted 194 prevention workshops to children and teens in area schools.

Geographic breakdown of new clients:

134 our six towns

220 New Milford, Roxbury, Bridgewater (court clients)

15 Out of State (NY border)

43 Other Connecticut

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