On the evening of Sept. 24, Fairfield residents gathered under the gazebo at Sherman Green to recognize victims of domestic violence with a candlelight vigil.

“We need to give women the strength to say enough is enough,” said State Attorney Judy Stevens.

The event, organized by the Bridgeport Center for Women and Families, united a variety of speakers, including local politicians, law enforcement officers and students, toward one cause: empowering victims of domestic violence to come forward and seek justice for the crimes committed against them.

Every 15 seconds, the clear sound of a bell rang out over the ceremony, reminding the crowd that domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds in the United States.

Other numbers presented by Deborah Greenwood, CEO of the Center, were just as staggering:

One out of every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

During the first three months of this year, 90 children were orphaned due to domestic homicide.

More than three women die of domestic violence every day.

“That’s just way too many,” said Greenwood. “One life is too many.”

According to Stevens, a significant hurdle in responding to the issue of domestic violence is the fact that many cases go unreported. While sometimes the victims are too frightened to report the crimes and are wary of implicating their abusers, other cases are not reported simply because victims are unsure of how to do so.

“The hardest thing for a person that has been abused to do is to walk through a door and ask for help,” Stevens said.

In recent months, the Bridgeport Center for Women and Families has taken strides to alleviate these concerns.

The center has recently begun its transformation into The Center for Family Justice, the first of its kind in the state. While victim services such as child care, counseling, education and case management will still be offered, the center will now team up with local police, prosecutors and social services to ensure that the needs of victims can be met in one location.

“The frustration of dealing with the current system often causes the abused to give up in fear and frustration, recanting the facts and often returning to the abuse,” said Stevens in an earlier press release.

As darkness slowly fell over the gazebo, purple glow sticks were dispersed throughout the crowd, illuminating the faces of audience members with the official color of domestic violence awareness.

Students from several local schools stepped forward to voice their support as the evening continued.

Fairfield Ludlowe High School’s a cappella choir treated the crowd to a rendition of “Stand By Me.”

Members of the Fairfield Warde High School organization RAFT, or Raising Abuse Awareness For Teens, presented a banner emblazoned with the phrase “no excuse for abuse,” signed by their fellow peers.

The students then joined forces to read the list of the 20 Connecticut residents who died from domestic violence incidents in the past year alone.  The individuals on the list, including Nancy Lanza, mother of Sandy Hook elementary school gunman Adam Lanza, died at the hands of their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, boyfriends or girlfriends.

Colin Seavey, a Fairfield resident who attended the event with his daughter in tow, asserted that domestic violence could occur anywhere.  “People think it won’t happen in a small town like Fairfield. But it can, and we need to watch out for it,” he said.

Sacred Heart University seniors Jill Steinhauer and Joy Vandermark attended the event as well.

“A lot of people don’t speak up when stuff like this happens to them. It’s important to be aware of, especially for women,” said Steinhauer.

“Volunteer. Advocate. Donate money. Do whatever you can,” said Greenwood, stressing that each supporter of the cause makes a difference.

“We need an army,” she added, looking out over the crowd.  “How do you build an army? One by one..”

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