Domestic Violence Fatality Committee Recommends Study, Stepped-Up Communication

The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — Kelly Annelli thinks about her friend and neighbor, Kyla Ryng, every day, wondering if there was anything she could have done to prevent Ryng's shooting death in June at the hands of her husband.

In a year that has seen 10 deaths from intimate partner violence, people from the state's domestic violence organization, the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, have been thinking they could do more, too.

Toward that end, the coalition released the 2014 report of its domestic violence fatality review committee Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building. The report makes a series of recommendations, most of which aim to strengthen communication among the agencies that come in contact with domestic violence victims and perpetrators.

The Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee recommends, among other things:

•The establishment of a temporary subcommittee to evaluate the outcome of cases in which people are accused of violating no-contact orders.

•Stepped-up communication with criminal justice agencies, lawyers and health organizations, all of which cross paths with domestic violence victims and/or abusers.

•Obtaining money from the General Assembly to fund a public-awareness campaign aimed at preventing domestic violence.

The coalition wants to convene a "workgroup" with the Judicial Branch, the Division of Criminal Justice and similar organizations to examine the experiences of domestic violence victims and offenders who go through the court system, the report said. The idea, it said, is to get a complete picture of what the process is for victims and ensure they are receiving the right services.

Because lawyers who work on divorce cases come in contact with domestic violence victims and abusers, the coalition would like to work more closely with the Connecticut Bar Association. The hope is that attorneys will be able identify signs of abuse and connect victims with their local domestic violence organization for help, the report said.

The coalition also wants to strengthen the partnership among victim service advocates who work for the courts and advocates who work for family violence agencies.

Because physicians, including obstetricians and pediatricians, come in contact with victims of intimate partner violence, the coalition would like to explore ways to work with the doctors' professional associations, the report said.

The idea is to make the physicians aware of the health problems — like substance abuse — that sometimes coincide with domestic abuse, to have them properly screen patients who are domestic violence victims and intervene if the patients are deemed to be in danger, the report said.

"The buck stops with us," said Dr. Cynthia Price, a doctor at Hartford Hospital, where domestic violence victims have been treated for abuse and returned at a later date with fatal or near-fatal injuries.

Finally, the coalition also wants to start a series of discussions with representatives of mental health organizations and other social service agencies such as the state Department of Children and Families. They, too, can screen clients for exposure to domestic violence, the report said.

Ironically, Kyla Ryng wanted to be a victim advocate or a social worker, Annelli said. She wonders if even Ryng herself, who she described as a smiling, "breath of fresh air," thought she could be in danger.

"I find myself questioning my role as a friend, a neighbor and confidante," Annelli said during the press conference. "What was I missing, and could I have done more? Was there "a cry for help in our sisterly conversations as we would watch the kids play in the back yard?"

She wants people to learn the warning signs that often precede intimate partner violence, she said in an interview with The Courant.

Karen Jarmoc, the coalition's director, talked about some of those signs earlier; a partner who tries to control the victim by isolating her from family and friends or looking at her text messages, for example.

"It's very important that we all learn to recognize the signs of domestic violence and that we act on it," Annelli said.

Anyone who needs help or wants advice about domestic violence is asked to call the statewide domestic violence hotline, 888-774-2900.

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