HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Some Connecticut domestic violence advocates are raising concerns that the latest campaign ad from Democratic Senate candidate Susan Bysiewicz could confuse victims seeking help.
The TV commercial touts a state confidentiality program for crime victims that Bysiewicz helped put in place when she was the Secretary of the State, and it urges people to call the state-funded domestic violence hotline number for more information. The phone number appears at the end of the ad.
Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Tuesday it is "challenging" that the hotline number is listed as a contact for the "Safe at Home" program, which the coalition does not administer. Last week, she sent a memo to the 18 domestic violence organizations that are members of CCADV to make them aware that they could experience an influx of calls.
"We are not a political organization, and we were not aware or informed about the ad," Jarmoc said. "We were not aware that our statewide hotline number was going to be utilized in this way."
Jonathan Ducote, Bysiewicz's campaign manager, said the campaign decided to use the hotline because the campaign was concerned that someone in an immediate and dangerous situation would call the Secretary of the State's Office, which administers the "Safe at Home" program.
"The hotline is the go-to source for all domestic violence victims in Connecticut," he said. "It is very difficult to understand how publicizing this hotline number is problematic."
The ad was the second Bysiewicz campaign ad that has drawn criticism. Ducote previously acknowledged there was a "research error" in a spot that ran last month wrongly accusing her Democratic rival for the nomination, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, of accepting more hedge fund contributions than any other congressional Democrat.
In her memo, Jarmoc provided the coalition members with information and guidelines for the Secretary of the State's Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program.
The program has been in place since 2004 and allows victims of family violence, sexual assault, stalking and injury or risk of injury to a child to keep their new address confidential in government records, including voter registry lists. It also keeps marriage records confidential. Participants are able to use the program as a substitute mailing address to hide their whereabouts from an abuser.
Ducote said if coalition members "needed to be informed about the Safe at Home program and this commercial was the impetus for that, I think that's great."
State Rep. Mae Flexer, who oversees a legislative task force on domestic violence, said she worries that using the wrong number will confuse people seeking help.
"Whether it's the legal process or whether it's getting services from your domestic violence program, it can be confusing and frustrating at times because of all the hoops you have to jump through," said the Killingly Democrat who has endorsed Murphy in the primary. "Anything that makes that worse can be troublesome and that's what we've been trying to change."
A 2011 report on domestic violence fatalities in Connecticut showed that many victims were unaware of the services available to them.
Bysiewicz and Murphy face a Senate primary on Aug. 14.
Jarmoc, a former Democratic state representative who is currently running for the state Senate, said she has not publicly endorsed a candidate in the race.
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