STRATFORD, Conn. — Every nine seconds a bell’s ring cut through the chill air outside Stratford Town Hall on Tuesday evening.
As the sun set, Deb Greenwood, president of the Center for Family Justice, said the constant ringing was meant to remind those gathered on the lawn that every nine seconds someone becomes a victim of domestic violence.
“It’s supposed to be annoying,” she said, referring the bell ringing.
The bell ringing marked the somber event, one of six vigils the Bridgeport-based center is holding to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One was held in Easton on Monday and another in Bridgeport on Wednesday.
A vigil is planned for Thursday night in Monroe with two more in Fairfield and Trumbull coming up.
The vigils both honor the memory of those who lost their lives to domestic violence in the previous year and shine a light on an issue that is often kept secret.
“We also have hope for those currently enduring abuse,” Greenwood said.
The center serves about 9,000 men, women and children each year, but Greenwood said the large number reflects individuals’ willingness to seek assistance and support and prevention education programs.
“More people are finding our services,” she said.
The newly renovated center is now a one-stop site for any services a victim might need — from police and prosecutors to counseling to a new wellness studio that offers yoga, meditation and other stress-relieving activities.
Offering a range of services under one roof streamlines the way victims engage with supportive services and the criminal justice system, said Beth Fitzpatrick, marketing coordinator for the center.
Mayor John Harkins, who spoke at the vigil, reminded the crowd of about 40 that Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been observed since 1987 and many strides have been made to help those in abusive situations.
The sobering fact that an estimated one in four women and one in six men will be abused in their lifetime means “there is still work to be done,” he said.
Greenwood announced a Nov. 10 open house for youth who might need support services or want to know how they can help. Kathryn Cullen and Melissa Wilson, two of the 70 members of Stratford High School’s Be Kind club, volunteered to help read the names of 12 Connecticut victims from the steps of Town Hall.
Dale Holder, the center’s director of grants and program administration, called on men to help stop the cycle of violence “In the community, in the United States and in the world.”