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On the 'Wings of Hope,' butterflies symbolize efforts to reverse domestic violence

Published 9:11 pm, Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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  • Julia Zapadka, 9, of Westport holds a butterfly while her mother, Ania Kuniej, looks on at Tuesday's Healing Wings of Hope event at Earthplace. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed

    Julia Zapadka, 9, of Westport holds a butterfly while her mother, Ania Kuniej, looks on at Tuesday's Healing Wings of Hope event at Earthplace.

    Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Despite the high number of domestic violence incidents reported in Westport, an uplifting reaction to the problem -- "Healing Wings of Hope" -- took to the air Tuesday afternoon to highlight efforts to address that abuse and promote change.

Benefiting the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk, the annual Wings event at Earthplace was an occasion for the release of close to 100 butterflies, sponsored by individuals at $10 apiece to raise money for the nonprofit organization.

"It's raising awareness of domestic violence, but we're doing it in a way that's uplifting and healing," said Elizabeth Marks Juviler, former chairwoman of the Domestic Violence Task Force in Westport.

"There were about 100 cases last year of domestic violence in Westport that were reported," said Ania Kuniej, who volunteers with the center, "so we're releasing the same amount of butterflies."

"There are no boundaries," she said of domestic violence, which many people assume is unlikely in an affluent and well-educated town as Westport.

Kuniej said national figures show that 30 percent of all women experience some kind of domestic violence in their lives, while 40 percent of all the women murdered are killed by their partner.

One Westport woman, who asked that her name be withheld, shared her own experience as a victim of domestic violence. "I experienced this maybe six years ago ... I was very scared. It took me three years to get strong enough to file for divorce."

"It's very scary that there is no help for women with domestic violence, because when you call 911, both parties get arrested," the woman added.

She said local police like Westport's are not to blame, but the legal system is arranged so that it is difficult for victims to find advocacy at the onset. Part of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center's mission, however, is to change that.

"I think it's a wonderful organization, and it's unfortunately something we need to do to support women in our community who otherwise would feel very alone," said Shari Brenner of Westport.

"It's something that goes on every day, even in Westport," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who read a proclamation declaring October as "Domestic Violence Awareness Month" in Westport, as it has been designated nationwide.

Joseloff shared his experiences as an emergency medical technician, when he was dispatched on calls and saw a darker side of Westport. "You find out that everything is not as nice and cozy and beautiful as it looks," he said.

"It's a problem that we deal with, that the police officers deal with," he said.

"There is help available," Joseloff said, however. "There are crisis centers ... and people in Westport need to be aware of the problem."

"It's not something that I normally think about because I've never experienced it," said Sarah Stevens of Milford, who attended the Tuesday event.

"But it's just awful to think how many people are affected by this, so this is a great cause," she said.

For more information about the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, visit http://www.dvccct.org