More than 100 members and guests attended the Catalyst Endowment Fund’s first program of 2015 focusing on the theme “Preventing Harm: Domestic Violence and the Effect on Our Community.” Held at Infinity Music Hall on Front Street in Hartford, the event started with welcoming remarks from Hartford Foundation President Linda J. Kelly and an update on Catalysts’ 2014 grantmaking from steering committee chair Andrew Worthington.
Worthington discussed last year’s education and grantmaking efforts which focused on the topic “Learn to Read: Read to Learn: More Than Just Your ABCs.” This effort involved the members learning about the importance of successful acquisition of reading skills by young children and the need for parents and families to be actively engaged and supported in this work.
This yearlong endeavor culminated in Catalyst members voting to award grants to two local nonprofit organizations that engaged both parents and children in early literacy. One $25,000 grant was awarded to East Hartford Childplan, Inc. which collaborated with the East Hartford Library and other local partners to create a town-wide early literacy program that connects parents, caregivers, infants and toddlers to a variety of learning experiences to increase pre-reading skills. The second grant of $24,800 was awarded to Family Life Education, Inc. of Hartford to develop programming for the Children’s Fitness/Wellness Center’s child development facility to ensure that children’s intellectual growth needs are met during the most important developmental period of birth to three years of age.
Worthington was also pleased to report that two of the other finalists for Catalyst grants, the Bridge Family Center’s two-generation family literacy program and the Women’s League Child Development Center’s initiative to provide books for home libraries for unemployed /underemployed, received funding from other donor advised funds at the Hartford Foundation.
Prior to introducing the keynote speakers for the evening, Worthington set the tone for the evening’s discussion by showing a powerful video on domestic violence featured during this year’s Superbowl.
The first of the two featured speakers was Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer for the CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Jarmoc provided an overview of the impacts of domestic violence in Connecticut and the types of services in place to assist victims of domestic violence as well as identifying some of the existing gaps in these services. Jarmoc offered some sobering statistics on the pervasive nature of domestic violence, also referred to intimate partner violence, which involves a pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate relationship where one partner tries to control and dominate the other. The behavior may be verbally, psychologically, physically or sexually abusive with the victim left feeling scared, confused, dependent and insecure.
Key strategic areas currently underway to prevent domestic violence include:
Jarmoc also discussed a number of strategic initiatives to improve services for victims of domestic violence including the annual CT Domestic Violence Fatality Review, programs to evaluate and assess existing programs on college campuses, domestic violence/healthcare screenings and improving outcomes for children and youth exposed to intimate partner violence. Funding is a major challenge for many efforts to reduce intimate partner violence, specifically the availability of transitional housing for victims and resources to support effective public policy and public awareness activities.
The second speaker was Anne Mahoney, a Senior Assistant State’s Attorney in the Hartford Judicial District prosecuting major felonies including a variety of domestic violence cases. Mahoney used several real-life examples of domestic violence cases to illustrate the variation of intimate partner violence and how it can impact anyone - victims and perpetrators do not necessarily meet preconceived notions about domestic violence.
Several audience members read real-life case scenarios of intimate partner violence which Mahoney elaborated on. These included both male and female victims and perpetrators - often dual cases where acts of violence are initiated by both parties. Mahoney also played a 911 call and shared text messages and photos from an incident involving a perpetrator breaking into a safe house to harass a victim.
According to Mahoney, one of the most dangerous times for domestic violence victims is when a violent partner is asked to leave the home and has nowhere else to go. Specifically, she discussed how courts lack resources to prevent future acts of violence and the existing system is not geared towards victims but perpetrators. Mahoney stated that despite the fact that there are thousands of restraining and protective orders each year, violations rarely result in significant penalties which can empower an abuser.
The event concluded with questions from the audience, including one about the number of incidents that go unreported. Jarmoc responded that domestic violence is the most underreported crime there is, which means that statistics are actually much lower than the actual number of crimes being committed.
The next Catalyst meeting on domestic violence will include more in-depth discussion on gaps in services and supports to prevent and assist victims of domestic violence. This event is scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 11th from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Real Art Ways in Hartford. This summer, the Hartford Foundation will be releasing a Request for Proposals and staff will provide Catalyst members with the grant requests to consider at its Wednesday, October 7th meeting, where they will make their decision of a program to support with a grant of up to $50,000.