Anyone who thinks domestic violence is a problem limited to other ZIP codes simply needs to listen for the calls coming into the Greenwich YWCA’s Domestic Abuse Services hotline. The phone rings fifteen to twenty times a day, sometimes more, says Suzanne Adam, the YWCA’s director of domestic violence services. True to her point, Suzanne had to briefly interrupt our interview about Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) to take one such urgent call.
In Greenwich, by all measures a relatively safe community, domestic violence is consistently the second most frequently reported crime, second only to larceny, according to Suzanne. She estimates that 90 to 95 percent of the approximately 6,000 people the program services annually—that’s about 10 percent of Greenwich’s population—live in town.
Yet Suzanne notes that despite its pervasiveness, spreading the word that domestic violence is an equal opportunity issue remains a challenge. “There’s a cultural bias that can contribute to the idea that it’s not really a problem here,” she says. “You have to educate people that regardless of where you are—whether it’s Bridgeport or Greenwich—this is happening in families every day.”
Suzanne explains one reason people tend to underestimate the seriousness of domestic violence is a desensitizing she associates with images engrained in the media, sports and pop culture. “We live in a world where someone like [NFL football player] Ray Rice can brutally assault his wife on camera and people still come to his defense,” she says. She also points out that victims can minimize the problem as well. “There’s a misperception that domestic violence is something that always ends with someone being black and blue. It’s much more complex. It can involve sexual violence, emotional abuse. It’s a very complicated syndrome that manifests itself in many ways.”
TO HELP SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE ISSUE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WE ASKED SUZANNE TO SHARE SOME KEY POINTS
1 VICTIMS ARE NOT ALONE
Domestic violence victims tend to feel isolated, vulnerable and often ashamed. But every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted by a domestic partner. “When it happens, we are here for you,” says Suzanne. The hotline is staffed twenty-four hours a day.
2 PREVENTION STARTS EARLY
The YWCA has programs for children as young as first grade that promote healthy conflict resolution. With adolescents, the focus shifts to dating violence prevention. “The key is to stop the cycle before it starts,” says Suzanne.
3 THE YWCA’S HELP IS FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL
This includes shelter options for families fleeing violent homes. “A lot of women living in these situations have deep economic fears. Where will they go? How will they take care of their kids? They feel stuck in abusive situations, but they are not aware these services are completely free,” says Suzanne, who notes the YWCA has witnessed an increase in demand for long-term shelter placements.
4 YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The YWCA is often looking for volunteers to help with its domestic abuse hotline, community education and prevention programs, and support services at the center. Visit the website for volunteer requirements.
5 FUNDRAISING IS CRITICAL
It takes an annual budget of $2 million to provide the YWCA’s services. One way to help is to make a donation or support the annual Old Bags luncheon, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. The popular event, held each spring, “literally keeps our hotline going,” says Suzanne.
Domestic violence hotline
203-622-0003; or visit ywcagreenwich.org