Connecticut Walk to End the Silence aims to help domestic violence victims
MIDDLETOWN — Organizers of the Walk to End the Silence hope this year’s event will encourage individuals either affected by domestic violence or those who know someone in such a situation to seek out people in the community who can help.
New Horizons Domestic Violence Services, run by the Community Health Center, and Middletown police have partnered to continue the fourth annual event, which intends to raises awareness and support victims in their greatest time of need.
The event, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed to Sunday at 10 a.m. due to the forecast of inclement weather.
The first event was held three months after the death of 7-month-old Aaden Moreno, of Middletown. His father, Tony Moreno, was convicted of killing his son by dropping him off the Arrigoni Bridge 100 feet over the Connecticut River July 5, 2015. Moreno was sentenced to 70 years in prison in 2017.
“It has been a process for many members of the community to heal and (understand) what has happened, and what could potentially happen to anyone. It hit home for a lot of people, because it happened right here,” said event organizer Middletown police Capt. Gary Wallace.
“This community has come together, supported — not just the immediate families it has affected, but — each other. That’s been really the greatest part: hearing from so many people who have been in the background, just to say, ‘We love what you’re doing,’ ‘Thank you’ or ‘I know someone that needed services and they got it,’” said Wallace, who encourages people to don purple T-shirts, coats, hats, scarves, pants or other articles of clothing to promote awareness of domestic violence.
There will be a short Zumba class warm-up before participants head around the block: “a big, fun ice breaker,” Wallace said. Registration for the walk, which begins and ends at Harbor Park on Harbor Drive, begins at 9 a.m.
Donations are $20 for adults, $10 for those under 18, and $50 for groups of five or more.
The new director of New Horizons, Kai Belton, will introduce herself as the morning kicks off.
Over the decades, much has evolved when it comes to police responding to domestic incidents, including how 911 calls are handled, Wallace said, pointing to the genesis: the Tracey Thurman case in Torrington.
Her husband threatened to kill her in May 1983, and she repeatedly unsuccessfully asked police to protect her. But Charles Thurman came to Torrington and stabbed his 22-year-old wife in the face, neck and upper body.
Tracey Thurman lived to tell her story. Her experience brought about a change in how officials respond, investigate and prosecute domestic violence cases across the country.
“That changed the face of domestic violence throughout the whole country. There are different protocols in place (such as the Lethality Assessment Program). When an officer goes to a scene, (he/she) asks specific questions of the victim. If the response includes a certain number of ‘yeses,’ a call is immediately made to New Horizons for help,” Wallace said.
That support ranges from emergency crisis services to counseling down the road for victims. “The point of that is to save lives,” he said.
Now, supervisors respond to a 911 call, along with two officers. “We understand the importance, not only of safety, but making sure our officers are following protocol. Every case is different and some can be very complicated,” Wallace said.
For police, domestic violence 911 calls are the third highest incidence of officers getting killed, Wallace said. Those statistics fall only behind traffic fatalities and unprovoked ambushes: “It’s a priority and always has been. The way we respond now is much different,” he said.
For over 30 years, the Community Health Center has operated New Horizons Domestic Violence Shelter, a 24/7 emergency shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. New Horizons is a 24-hour operational nonprofit organization that provides services to victims of domestic abuse. It serves 15 municipalities: Middletown, Middlefield, Cromwell, Portland, East Hampton, Durham, Haddam, Chester, East Haddam, Killingworth, Deep River, Old Saybrook, Essex, Clinton and Westbrook.
At Harbor Park Saturday, there will be tables with brochures and other handouts containing important information. “Because there are resources there, because the people who are there are not just domestic violence victims, they’re people who care about the issue, it’s really makes it welcoming,” Wallace said of the atmosphere, where he’s seen much talking, mingling and socializing.
“People come for support or the resources, but in any case, it’s a very welcoming environment,” he said.
Annually, New Horizons provides services and shelter to over 1,300 women, children and male victims. The shelter is one component of a “comprehensive approach to intimate partner violence that also includes community education, support groups, individual counseling, court advocacy and consultation to CHC’s clinical provider teams,” according to the agency.
New Horizons’ staff members are part of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where they advocate for ongoing advancement of legislation and policy that protect the health and interests of women. A 24/7 confidential hotline service is also available through the program, according to the agency.
All proceeds will go to New Horizons Domestic Violence Services.
Visit newhorizonsdv.com for information.
Whether people choose to walk or not, they can still donate to the cause.
“When it comes to the work that police and New Horizons do, even if the weather is bad, you don’t get a choice (to help victims). We have to respond to those calls. Those incidents are still happening whether it rains or it shines. Even if you can help one person, it’s all worth it,” Wallace said.