Domestic violence advocates speak out after Bridgeport murder that led to Amber Alert

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HARTFORD — Domestic violence advocates in Connecticut are speaking out after a woman was stabbed to death in Bridgeport early Friday morning. The man suspected of killing her, Oscar Hernandez, took off with his 6-year-old daughter sparking an Amber Alert and multi-state search. They were found just before 11:30 a.m. in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania.

“When it affects a child, everybody stops and the number one issue that comes across our mind is how we will help that child immediately during the crisis. And now we have to not stop and pause there. What can we do to help support that child and the family after?,” said Debra Greenwood, President and CEO of the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport.

The center is one of the state’s 18 member organizations in the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CTCADV). The CTCADV released a statement that the woman’s death marks the state’s first “intimate partner violence homicide” in 2017.

“We are saddened that another life has been taken because of domestic violence, but are grateful that the victim’s daughter has been found,” said Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer of CTCADV. “We urge everyone to be vigilant of the signs that abusive behaviors may be escalating towards fatal violence. We want the public to know that our 18 member organizations are here to help by providing safe, confidential and free services across the state, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.”

Greenwood said, “When a homicide does happen in the state of Connecticut or any state in the United States, one issue we’re finding is most of those homicides don’t necessarily know where to go for free, confidential service. They’re not even aware that there is a place like the Center for Family Justice to go to.”

On average, 14 people are killed in domestic violence homicides each year, the CTCADV said. In 2015, 8 people were killed, and in 2016, 9 people were killed.

But thousands of others receive help from these 18 organizations every year. In fiscal year 2016, they provided services to 39,661 victims across Connecticut.

“That’s the goal: to turn victims into survivors,” said Greenwood.

Police can be a resource as well, responding to domestic violence calls ranging from verbal arguments to extremes like Friday’s case out of Bridgeport.

“Clearly the issue of domestic violence and violence occurring in the homes is a problem and we want to be a part of the solution,” said Chief Gary MacNamara of the Fairfield Police Dept.

He said, “There are resources. There is law enforcement. There are people out there that if you find yourself in a domestic situation that scares you, concerns you, if you think you need help, to call us. We’ll certainly respond.”

Certified domestic violence counselors can be reached 24 hours per day, 7 days per week at the state’s 18 domestic violence providers via the statewide domestic violence hotlines – 888.774.2900 (English) and 844.831.9200 (Español). Victims in the Bridgeport area can reach their local provider, The Center for Family Justice, directly at 203.384.9559.

Services are confidential, safe and free. You can also learn more here.