An annual study of domestic violence incidents in Connecticut found that 14 women were murdered in 2011 by their partners, with children being present for three of the killings.
At a Wednesday press conference, the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence released the 2013 findings of the state’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee. The findings were based on homicides that occurred in 2011, and the group also issued a series of recommendations to curb family violence and protect children.
Karen Jarmoc, CCADV’s executive director, said the committee analyzes statistics from the most recent year in which all the cases have been adjudicated. She said there likely were 11 women killed by their boyfriends or husbands in 2012. However, some of those cases are still working their way through the court system.
Despite progress made by the legislature in recent years, Jarmoc said domestic violence remains a serious problem in Connecticut. She said the number of women seeking help at shelters around the state has been steadily high.
“Our shelters in Connecticut are at capacity 95 to 98 percent of the time, which is, as a you can imagine, a real challenge,” she said.
This year’s report focused heavily on the impact domestic abuse has on children in households where it occurs. According to the report, children were believed to be present during three murders in 2011. Between 2000 and 2011, 63 children were present at the scene during 33 domestic violence murders in Connecticut.
Dr. Nina Livingston, a pediatrician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said children who have witnessed the murder of a parent experience “uniquely severe trauma.”
Livingston said family violence can be a far reaching problem for children who live in affected homes. She said children are more likely to experience various types of maltreatment if domestic violence is occurring in their homes.
“Many of these kids are also suffering physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect,” she said.
Those experiences can have a range of outcomes on their mental health, Livingston said. Doctors often observe depression, anxiety, aggression, or oppositional behavior in children living with domestic violence, she said. That can lead to difficulties in school and in other relationships, she said.
Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz said domestic violence is often a factor in cases her department handles.
“Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families beset with domestic violence. DCF serves a very diverse range of cultures in Connecticut and we know that this is a problem that cuts across them all,” she said.
Katz said DCF is in the process of changing how it responds to domestic violence in an effort to minimize the trauma inflicted on children. In its report, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence also made a series of policy recommendations to reduce family abuse and protect children in Connecticut.
The group called for a review of protocols regarding how investigators interview children who witness a domestic abuse incident. It also recommended adopting evidence-based screening tools to identify traumatic effects in children experiencing violence.
CCADV recommended training for state judges and prosecutors on the risk victims face when they seek help through the criminal justice system, as well as instruction on the gravity of violating a protective order.
The group called on the legislature to allocate funds for a statewide public awareness campaign to curb family violence.
Rep. Mae Flexer, a Danielson Democrat who co-chairs the General Assembly’s Task Force on Domestic Violence, said the state approved legislation authorizing the campaign three years ago but never funded it. Flexer said she’s hopeful the legislature and the Public Health Department will find the resources to pay for it.
“We need to build more public awareness on the issue of domestic violence. We need early interventions for our young people to teach them the dynamics of healthy relationships. We need to educate our whole community on warning signs for domestic violence and where victims and their loved ones can go for help,” she said.
Flexer said the findings included in the coalition’s annual reports have informed the domestic violence laws passed by the legislature in recent years. Over the last few sessions, she said the legislature has ensured steady funding to staff shelters and extended additional housing and employment protections to victims of domestic violence.
Lawmakers have also passed bills regarding the state’s court system, ensuring offenders are fully prosecuted and victims are treated appropriately, she said.
“We’ve made tremendous strides over the last couple of years,” she said.