Domestic Abuse Services

In fiscal year 2021, YWCA Greenwich’s Domestic Abuse Services marked 40 years of serving the community. The program began at YWCA Greenwich with a request from the United Way Planning Council after their Needs Assessment indicated that domestic violence was prevalent throughout the community. Since then, YWCA Greenwich has grown to provide an array of victim services that include crisis intervention, safety planning, individual and group counseling for adults and children and legal guidance and support for civil and criminal proceedings. To mitigate future instances of intimate partner violence and encourage healthy relationships, YWCA Greenwich staff deliver prevention education throughout Greenwich Public Schools.

In an OpEd from October 2020 (see below), President & CEO Mary Lee Kiernan and Director of Domestic Abuse Services, Meredith Gold noted the dramatic rise in demand for domestic abuse services due to the pandemic. That demand continued through the end of the fiscal year. For example, the average number of services per client in fiscal year 2021 was 73.2 compared to only 27 in fiscal year 2019 due to new forms of abuse and complexity of client needs. Emergency shelter bed nights went from 308 in FY19 to 1,846 in FY21 as other housing options were scarce, requiring extended stays in our shelter. YWCA Greenwich’s DAS staff worked tirelessly to meet the growing needs of victims and their families.

Another key component of what we do today is raise awareness about both domestic violence and YWCA Greenwich’s role in supporting our neighbors, friends and family who are experiencing intimate partner violence, or know someone who is. Please scroll down to view some of our activities from fiscal year 2021.

272Incidents with Greenwich Police Department response
620Clients Received Services

120Supporters Walked The Walk Against Domestic Violence in October
61People Walked in to YWCA Greenwich Seeking Help

The Jane and Alan Batkin Fund for DAS Crisis Services

In 2021 Jane and Alan Batkin established a fund at YWCA Greenwich to ensure that YWCA’s Domestic Abuse Services continues to meet the increasing need for crisis intervention and keep families safe. Jane, who serves on the Board of Directors as Vice Chair of DAS saw the need to establish a fund to meet extraordinary expenses and enable DAS staff to go above and beyond for their clients.

YWCA Greenwich is grateful to Alan and Jane for their generous and steadfast support of the Domestic Abuse Services program.

OpEd in Greenwich Time

October 18, 2020

COVID-19 and Domestic Abuse

The pattern of power and control that is the hallmark of abusive relationships became more acute and difficult for victims of this insidious problem since last March when COVID-19 forced the quarantining of victims with their abusers. The consequences for victims of domestic violence and their children has been dramatic.

The pandemic forced many victims and/or abusers to work from home or stay home due to job loss, and an escalation of abuse ensued. Stress and anxiety, while not causes of domestic abuse, can exacerbate an already volatile situation. Victims called YWCA Greenwich for help from closets, bathrooms or in the middle of the night. Victims were trapped in their homes with little break from the abuse, disconnected from supports such as family, friends, work colleagues and service providers. In short, our clients were in crisis, and YWCA Greenwich saw a 26% increase in domestic abuse crisis calls to our 24/7 hotline and a 289% increase in crisis intervention services during the shutdown period of March-June versus the prior year.

Victims reported new forms of control from abusers relating to COVID-19, such as threatening to deliberately expose them to the virus; preventing access to medical care; refusing to let them inside the home or insisting they leave the home; and forcing excessive sanitizing like washing her hands until her skin became raw. We know that battering injuries are the number one reason women visit the emergency room, yet our clients are now even less likely to seek medical treatment for physical injuries from abuse, or for other conditions. YWCA Greenwich has been there at the other end of the line, 24/7 to provide safety planning, counseling, and referrals to a variety of other services. Year over year, the total number of hotline and crisis calls to YWCA Greenwich increased from 3,727 to 5,284.

The COVID-19 escalation of domestic violence also caused dramatic impacts on children. With children home all day during the shutdown, and still home more frequently, they witnessed or experienced domestic violence for the first time or more often. Prior to COVID-19, school, extracurricular activities and play dates were a respite from abuse and an important aspect of a victim’s safety planning. Distance learning now gives teachers more access to the dynamics at home, and the Department of Children and Families has reported an increase in reports of family violence from mandated reporters such as teachers. Again, YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services has been here to provide safe counseling and support to children who have experienced the trauma of domestic violence, as well as take victims and their children into shelter if they decided to flee. The number of shelter bed nights provided by YWCA Greenwich for adults and children increased 281% year over year.

The closure of courthouses last spring created a range of problems and risks for victims of domestic abuse. While the advent of e-filing of temporary restraining orders appeared helpful, serving an abuser with a restraining order while quarantining together with a victim complicated safety planning and privacy for victims and their children. Closure of courts and limited court services resulted in less monitoring of defendants and the suspension of court-ordered batterer intervention programs—both creating more risk for victims. Family court matters are delayed and being handled with new protocols that all parties, including private attorneys, are learning in real time. Clients without legal representation still have less access to supportive services at court for guidance and general assistance. YWCA Greenwich’s Family Violence Victim Advocate, typically located at the Stamford Courthouse, as well as our Civil Legal Clinic, supported victims with legal matters remotely throughout this period and since we reopened for in-person services in July.

October is Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness Month

Each October, YWCA Greenwich raises awareness about domestic violence with events including a community-wide walk, Walk The Walk Against Domestic Violence and a Candlelight Vigil where we memorialize victims of domestic violence in Connecticut who have lost their lives the previous year. Our 2020 Candlelight Vigil was virtual and may be viewed below.

Walk the Walk Against Domestic Violence

2020 Candlelight Vigil

2021 Old Bags Luncheon

Now in its 16th year, the Old Bags Luncheon (OBL) is a signature fundraising event for YWCA Greenwich and is a major fundraiser for Domestic Abuse Services. In fiscal year 2021, after a fully virtual event the previous year, the event shifted to a hybrid model. In addition to a smaller, socially distant luncheon at the Belle Haven Club, supporters hosted watch party events in their homes. A prerecorded presentation included a domestic violence survivor speaker, a look back at previous luncheons and a preview of the auction items. To view the presentation, click here. The auction of new and gently used handbags, including the iconic Birkin bag, was conducted on a mobile bidding platform over a three-day period. The event was a tremendous success and raised over $500,000 for Domestic Abuse Services. Many thanks to our amazing co-chairs: Connie Anne Harris, Tara Spiess Restieri, Natalie Stein, and Lauren Walsh.

Below, Meredith Gold, Director of Domestic Services talks about the impact of the Old Bags Luncheon.

"Blue": A Watch Party and Community Conversation

This past February, during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services hosted a watch party to talk about the unseen tactics of emotional abuse and coercive control.

"Blue" depicts the story of Shade and Tint, two college girls who have been dating for about a year, in a seemingly normal day in their lives. However, that ‘normal’ is interrupted when Tint has a party to prepare for. What appears to be normal, is actually intense emotional abuse by Shade who does not want Tint to go to this party.”

Leslie Coplin

Prevention and Outreach Coordinator

Liz Casolo

YNet Executive Committee Member Greenwich High School Senior

Maeve Aurora Chapman

Writer and Actor

Rosie Enyart

Youth Engagement and Community Educator

Watch below "Blue": A Watch Party and Community Conversation