Building a new emergency housing system that would accommodate the privacy needs of victims of domestic violence in Connecticut has been complicated, frustrating work. When a person who is homeless is seeking to be housed, their name, age, and other details are entered into something called the Homeless Management Information System, or HMIS. This data is then used to direct people toward appropriate housing, and it’s a big part of why Connecticut is on track to ending chronic homelessness—the most pernicious kind—by the end of the year. But the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law in 1994, contains some strict confidentiality restrictions to protect victims of domestic violence. When a woman—and it’s usually a woman—escapes domestic violence, her first concern is safety.
In the last few years, groups that previously hadn’t worked together are joining forces to combat human trafficking. Yes, human trafficking right here in Connecticut. Those entities include agencies such as the Department of Children and Families, which you might imagine would work against trafficking, as well as groups such as the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut and the Connecticut Lodging Association. Truck drivers and motel workers see trafficking firsthand, and they need training to recognize it and act appropriately. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, an anti-trafficking hotline, has received some 730 calls since 2007 that referenced Connecticut.
In 2014, Lori Jackson Gellatly was shot and killed by her estranged husband, after she had moved from the family’s home with the couple’s twin toddlers to her mother’s house in Oxford. Lori Gellatly had filed for and obtained a temporary restraining order because she said her husband was abusive. She was just a day shy of a hearing for a permanent order against her husband, who also seriously wounded Lori Gellatly’s mother. Lori Gellatly’s husband (I am tired of naming shooters) has since pleaded guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder, and he’s due back in court in November for what could be a 45-year sentence. Lori Gellatly died during what advocates and researchers say is a particularly vulnerable time, when an accused offender could react violently to being subject to a temporary restraining order.
Here’s a suggestion for Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League. Stay. Of late, the NFL has been roiled by the bad behavior of some of its members, including the violence former Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice inflicted upon his then-fiancée-now-wife, Janay Palmer. Video from security cameras show Rice punching Palmer and knocking her out cold in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February, and then dragging the unconscious Palmer from the elevator. Once both videos were made public, Goodell, who’d earlier handed Rice a lame two-game suspension, had to act more forcibly.
On any given day, 350 advocates work to help victims of domestic violence in Connecticut. But because of shrinking funds, Connecticut has 10 less domestic violence workers this year, and most of those lost jobs were in direct services – the critical part of programs designed to meet the needs of a domestic violence victim who’s worked up the guts to call a hotline number. Those lost positions have contributed to some ugly statistics. On Sept. 17, 2013, according to the annual National Census of Domestic Violence Services, 103 requests for help went unmet because of a lack of staff, or lack of funding – which often is the same thing.