On Monday morning, Oct. 16, several voices united to proclaim Wilton a place that holds perpetrators of domestic abuse accountable and declare that the town was united behind efforts to improve victim safety. First selectman Lynne Vanderslice led a group that included several members of the Wilton Police Department (WPD), State Rep. Gail Lavielle, and citizens involved with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC) and Teen PeaceWorks, to proclaim October 2017 to be National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Wilton.

Captain Rob Cipolla, of the WPD, said that from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, there were 38 family violence incidents and 65 domestic-related incidents in Wilton–symbolized by 103 purple ribbons hung around trees and lampposts in Wilton Center.

“As a police department we’d rather be involved in those domestic-related incidents before they reach the level of family violence. So we can offer services through the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, and get people those services so it doesn’t reach that next level.”

Cipolla, who is the liaison with the Domestic Violence Task Force for the Wilton Police Department, says that the department tries to address the issue from three different standpoints.

“We want to hold offenders accountable. We want to keep victims safe–and we do that through our collaboration with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center. But the other component is education and awareness, and we get that with the Teen PeaceWorks at the high school; we get that with the first selectman reading a proclamation like she did today. That brings awareness of the issue that it’s okay if you are a victim of domestic violence to come forward and there are services available.”

Friends and family members can play a critical role as ‘upstanders.’ “Just recognizing when there is a friend or family member going through a domestic-related issue, and providing them the numbers for our police department or the DVCC. If they don’t want to involve the police, that’s common. But there are other resources through DVCC that can get them services and help them come up with safety plans should they find themselves in that situation, to know what to do,” Cipolla adds.

The Wilton High School Teen PeaceWorks members on hand for the ceremony–Daniella Chavez, Macaire McNamara and Lauren McNamara–have gotten involved because they’ve learned how critical raising awareness and educating others is.

“Some people don’t realize how prevalent it is in the high school until you actually get into the nitty gritty and you realize it’s happening. It’s not just Bridgeport or other places, where you think it’s ‘somewhere else,’ but it is in your school too. That’s why I got involved, because I realized it is an issue here,” co-president Chavez explains.

Macaire McNamara says raising that awareness is also a sign of support to people in situations where they’re afraid to come forward.

“There were 103 domestic violence situations last year. Only 1-out-of-4 report it–that means that three voices aren’t heard. People who are going through this time, in high school, or adults, or children, they should know that they have a voice and they have somewhere to go to. That for them to get out of a situation, they have the resources and we have the resources as well.”

Kim Zemo, the WHS safe climate coordinator, is very proud of the students who have become such great advocates.

“It’s very empowering. This is such a grassroots effort, this is generated by the kids–in forming the club within the school and really pushing it along, that these are really important issues we need to talk about–it’s very powerful when you see the kids take a hold of it. I’m very proud of our students,” she says.

WHS Safe Climate Coordinator (Left) stands with Teen PeaceWorks members (L-R) Daniella Chavez, Macaire McNamara and Lauren McNamara.