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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Police chief: Domestic violence 'crosses all borders'

Updated 10:07 am, Thursday, July 17, 2014
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J. Michael Farren's brutal beating of his then-wife, Mary Margaret Farren, in 2010 led to his conviction by a Stamford jury last week. The case, which spent four years in court, shows how domestic violence can happen anywhere, including affluent communities such as New Canaan.

"He was a White House lawyer, pretty successful, living in a multimillion-dollar house," Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said. "It really crosses all borders."

Farren, 61, was found guilty July 11 of attempted murder, risk of injury to a child and first-degree assault. He was arrested for the attempted murder of his wife in their New Canaan mansion in January 2010 after he beat her with a metal flashlight, causing severe brain damage.

Krolikowski said the incident was "one of the most severe domestic violence cases" in New Canaan.

Kathy Lake, a spokesman for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford, echoed Krolikowski, saying domestic violence "crosses all boundaries, no matter the economic status or gender."

"It can affect anyone," she said. "Nationally it is an under-reported crime and it's one that affects all of the towns that we serve," Lake said.

Only about one-quarter of all physical assaults perpetuated against women by their partners are reported to the police, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website. The organization estimates that 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by their partners each year.

In the first half of 2014, there were 50 family dispute reports in New Canaan, up from 25 in the first half of 2013.

According to Krolikowski, roughly 75 percent of such cases involve domestic violence. In June alone, there were eight, up from two during the same month last year.

New Canaan's Youth and Family Services Coordinator Jacqueline D'Louhy said, however, that the crime still is under reported as many victims fear retaliation.

"We still think it's an issue that falls under the radar," she said.

Both D'Louhy and Lake agree that there has been more awareness with an increased community involvement from organizations like the DVCC.

"It is a serious crime," Lake said. "There may be more reporting over the last few years because there's more awareness."

The center -- which serves Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, New Canaan, Darien and Westport -- provides service to nearly 4,000 people each year, according to Lake. In the past 10 years, the agency has expanded its community education programs, counseling services and task forces to raise awareness about domestic violence.

As for the Farren verdict, Krolikowski said "it sends a message" that justice will be served on those who engage in such violent crime.

D'Louhy said she hopes the end of the trial helps Mary Farren and her two daughters start a new chapter in their lives.

"It's justice for something that was obviously horrific. A mother of two children was almost murdered," D'Louhy said. "Hopefully, the family can move on now."

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson