NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and advocates across Connecticut are uniting to spread a message of perseverance and hope.

Cheryl, who asked for her last name to not be used, is a domestic violence survivor.

“If he hit you once, he’s probably going to hit you again,” Cheryl said. “When he was choking me, I knew in that moment I was dying, and my children were watching it.”

Cheryl said an argument almost turned deadly, only ending when a neighbor who heard her screams broke into their home and pulled him off her. Cheryl said this wasn’t the first time he
attacked her, and he didn’t stop when she left.

“To hit your kid so many times in the head, you give him a concussion over playing a card game,” Cheryl said. “To see my daughter with his shoe print in her spine was heart-wrenching.”

Cheryl and her children persevered, taking a step some never get the chance to. She called Safe Futures, a domestic violence organization based in New London whose mission is to save lives, restore hope and stop abuse.

“If any of those variables had been different, I wouldn’t have made it, so seeing these people that didn’t make it just makes me more want to be that voice,” Cheryl said.

“When you can’t trust your intimate partner, how do you learn to trust other people?” Katherine Verano, CEO of Safe Futures, said.

Verano has worked with Cheryl for years. She said hearing Cheryl’s story brings her to tears and makes her remember a friend and why she’s in this line of work.

“When they called me, I said, ‘No, that can’t be. We were all out together Friday night.” Verano said. “Apparently (he) had stabbed her 42 times with a pair of scissors while she was in her nightgown, and it’s an image that I’ve held all these years that keeps me going.”

Safe Futures connected Cheryl to an emergency shelter and services for her children. Thousands of Connecticut residents received similar support this past year, putting shelters at 150% capacity.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) said they spent $14,000 on hotels in 2019 for survivors compared to an average of $136,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic but said the issue isn’t improving.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen an increased level of violence,” CCADV’s CEO Meghan Scanlon said.

CCADV said there are many types of domestic violence – psychological, emotional, financial and digital – but recently, physical has worsened.

According to the CCADV, in 2022, 58% of domestic violence victims were at high risk of being murdered. This is determined by a lethality screen conducted by first responders asking the victim questions like, “Has he or she used a weapon against you or threatened you or tried to choke you?’

“Connecticut is the only state nationally that does the lethality assessment,” Verano said.

Last year, 37,000 survivors were helped at 18 domestic violence organizations across Connecticut. Cheryl urges others to take that step that could change or even save your life.

“We’re safe, and the children are safe, and they’re happy,” Cheryl said. “Make that call, make that text. Reach out. Some days might be bad. Let’s make tomorrow better.”

Resources for domestic violence survivors are available online. The CT Safe Connect hotline can be reached by call or text at (888) 774-2900.