BRIDGEPORT, CT – Ceiling lights in the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater were purple, rather than the usual blue, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Wednesday evening, when more than 500 people gathered for the annual candlelight vigil of the Center for Family Justice.

Video showed the names of the 32 Connecticut residents who have lost their lives to intimate partner domestic violence in the past year, and a moment of silence ensued as those present held sticks purple lights and used the flashlights of their cell phones for the vigil.

The ceiling lights in the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater are purple in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Tonight is the night of hope and inspiration,” said Deborah Greenwood, President and CEO of the Center for Family Justice (CFJ), from behind the podium.

The amphitheater was adorned with purple balloons and boards displayed memorials to victims and brochures with resources.

The audience was made up of a strong police presence, including recruits from the Bridgeport Police Academy, elected officials and young people. Greenwood said it’s important for teens to learn about healthy relationships.

Matthew Reale, chairman of the CFJ board, said he attended his first vigil at Trumbull 14 years ago and had a solemn responsibility to ring a bell when the name of each person killed by domestic violence was called.

Throughout Wednesday evening, a Metro-North train could be heard rumbling at various intervals. “I want us to think about why we are here every time a train passes,” Reale said.

The Bridgeport Police Department Honor Guard led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by a moment of silence for those who lost their lives to domestic violence during the past year.

Greenwood said the problem of domestic violence has worsened, with a 32% increase in the number of CFJ cases over the past year. Greenwood shared a breakdown of the 5,570 clients the center served across its six cities of coverage.

There were 32 victims from Easton, 111 from Monroe, 210 from Trumbull, 242 from Fairfield, 723 from Stratford and 3,543 from Bridgeport. Greenwood also said the number of children CFJ helped doubled during the period.

She praised her staff, including counsellors, shelter workers, college campus advocates and clinicians, as well as court advocates, volunteers, past and current board members and those who run CFJ’s advocacy and wellness programs.

The Alternate Routes group performs on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these people,” Greenwood said. “They never lose hope. I love you all. You do so many things to save lives.

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim spoke about the importance of maintaining the partnerships that CFJ has with police departments, the justice system and civic leaders.

Greenwood also praised state and federal officials who pass laws to help victims of domestic and sexual violence.

She announced state officials including Senator Tony Hwang, Senator Marilyn Moore, Representative Antonio Felipe, Representative Anne Hughes, Representative Cristin McCarthy-Vahey and Representative Steven Staffstrom.

Hwang spoke about the power of saying no to domestic violence and commended survivors who work to make positive changes to save lives as true heroes.

Doris Ritenour, left, owner of Hair by Doris salon in Monroe, volunteers at a raffle table.

Vigil entertainment included Alternate Routes and performances by the Monroe Dance Workshop, D’Valda & Sirico Dance and Music Center and Klein Heatre Arts Program Choir.

Trumbull First Selectwoman Vicki Tesoro praised CFJ for bringing hope and healing to victims. “This kind of violence knows no borders,” she said. “It impacts all communities.”

Testoro said awareness, prevention and education are key to breaking the cycle of violence.

Greenwood said CFJ is “proud to be neck and neck on every case” with all six police departments in its coverage cities. She told the audience how calls for domestic violence are the most dangerous for law enforcement, with emotions running high.

Gary MacNamara, chair of CFJ’s White Ribbon Campaign, is a former police chief for the city of Fairfield. He recalled the stress of police work and the challenge of police and detectives to keep victims safe and get the help they need.

MacNamara introduced Bridgeport Police Chief Rebeca Garcia, Easton Police Chief Richard Doyle, Monroe Detective Nicole Buckley, and two state troopers.

Garcia said the facade of the Bridgeport Police Department is lit with purple lights in honor of domestic violence victims who have lost their lives.

She encouraged everyone to be relentless in the mission against domestic violence, to get survivors to share their stories, and to send the message that love isn’t meant to hurt and isn’t about control.

Greenwood said one in four women and one in seven men will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime. While most offenders are men, most men aren’t offenders, according to MacNamara.

The White Ribbon Campaign recognizes the need to work with young men to break the cycle of domestic violence.

MacNamara commended the young men of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Sacred Heart University for raising awareness and funding the CFJ to help victims of domestic violence.

This includes its annual White Ribbon Campaign and the SHU Walk to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

The event also included the unveiling of the altar for Latinx survivors, a call to action among young leaders, Pathways to HOPE Youth and #OneThing Commitment.

While most of the evening was dedicated to what has been done to end the cycle of domestic violence, MacNamara said, “what really matters is what you do tomorrow.”