Just weeks ago, Lilian Ijomah remembers seeing a flyer at work — one that listed signs of different kinds of abusive behavior.
“In my head, I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’” she said. “You know, I’ve been through all this. Every single one of them.”
Ijomah said she’d been in a past relationship in which she was raped and assaulted. She tried to hide how she was affected by her then-partner telling her to stay up at night while he slept. Ijomah said she started getting migraines from what she experienced.
One day, she talked to a work supervisor who told her how to connect with Interval House, an organization aimed to aid domestic violence survivors with resources such as support groups, help if they’re going through the legal system and more. Her support group helped talk her through her situation and stay out of the relationship.
“From my own point, they might just say, ‘Yes, we helped you,’” said Ijomah, who has now been out of the relationship for years. “But it was beyond help for me because they actually, literally, saved my life. Because if it was not for the support that I received, from other victims that have been through what I’ve been through and from their staff, I wouldn’t be able, I’m not sure I would be here today.”
And now, Interval House will have a person working closely with the West Hartford Police Department to help members of the community who have had experiences like Ijomah’s. Starting Monday, an employee for the organization will serve as an embedded advocate with local police to help survivors, said Mary-Jane Foster, the president and CEO of the organization.
That role would include tasks such as following up on the lethality assessment program information — when officials ask a list of questions to determine a person’s risk of being harmed — from the day before and connecting with those affected to tell them about how Interval House can help, Foster said.
Backed by some of the funds from a Victims of Crime Act grant, the person taking on that role will work for both West Hartford and East Hartford, Foster said.
The position isn’t reinventing the wheel since their advocates have previously worked with WHPD, Foster explained, but the role is “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s and making sure everybody’s expectations are on the same page and so forth.”
“I think it’s an enhancement and it’s a supplement to what we already are doing, I think it’s an excellent partnership for the public and especially the victims of domestic violence,” Police Chief Vernon Riddick said.
Mayor Shari Cantor said in an interview in December that she wanted to have Interval House connect with police to see how the organization could help the department.
“Because the police go in and they, by the time they enter into a situation, it’s already in a crisis,” Cantor said. “So, can we prevent the crisis before it happens? And there are resources available and there is counseling available and there are places people can go if they feel like they’re in danger at all.”
Those who want to get in touch with the advocate can call the West Hartford Police Department, Foster said. There are also a variety of other means of support and resources available through organizations such as Interval House, the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, among others.
Among the 24 municipalities Interval House serves, data from the organization shows West Hartford has the fourth-most number of survivors it supports. Representatives helped 178 West Hartford survivors and made contact 573 times during the 2019-20 fiscal year, the data shows.
Interval House supported Hartford residents the most with 2,640 survivors served with 7,468 contacts during that fiscal year, followed by Manchester and East Hartford.
Ijomah once heard the story of another woman’s experience on television she could relate to. It helped her move forward in her own situation, and she hopes her story assists others, too.
“If you find yourself in that situation, just know that there is hope and that you can get out, and there are resources for you to use,” Ijomah said.
If you’ve been affected by intimate partner violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800-799-SAFE (7233) and additional resources can be found at its website, https://www.thehotline.org/ .