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Roca, a group aimed at violence intervention for women, opens in Greater Hartford

Roca is a nationally-recognized violence intervention effort focused on supporting women and young mothers connected to urban violence.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Leaders and advocates gathered together Thursday for the official opening of Roca in Hartford. Roca is a nationally-recognized violence intervention effort focused on supporting women and young mothers connected to urban violence.

Sunindiya Bhalla, executive vice president for Women & 2Gen at Roca said she sees firsthand the value Roca has in communities like Hartford. 

"Since starting our work here late last year, it has become even clearer that there is an urgent need to reach women traumatized by increasing levels of violence and involvement in the criminal justice and child welfare systems," she said in a news release.

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"At Roca, we believe that justice is a verb. It's about what you do, not just what you say," explained Molly Baldwin, CEO and founder of Roca.

Those sentiments that travel through the halls and are written on the walls are all rooted in helping young women and mothers in the greater Hartford area.

Something elected officials stressed the help is needed, especially now.

"So many of the traditional community safety and wellness efforts, so many of the traditional violent interventions efforts leave out young women, and that's a mistake, and what Roca does fills that gap," explained Mayor Luke Bronin.

Roca addresses inequity by providing tools, resources, programs, and networks to help young women and their children at the center of urban violence heal from trauma and build up resilience.

"Trauma is something that keeps people trapped in a place that gives them no room," said Baldwin. "At Roca, we believe that if you held the trauma, you free the person."

Tatiana is a living testament to that. She is a participant in the Young Mothers Program with Roca.

"I was in a really bad place in my life. I lost my first two kids to DCF due to domestic violence," said Tatianna.

She said she had a violent past, but through the program, she began finding her way. Throughout her journey, she said there were many trials and tribulations, and now she's taking cognitive-behavioral therapy and learning to trust.

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"It helps me regulate my emotions, stay present, and to stay focused on my values which are my two daughters," Tatianna explained.

Tatianna said thanks to Roca; the future looks bright.

"After seven years of my DCF case being open," said Tatianna. "We are looking to close my case, and It will be closed soon."

While Roca continues to root itself in the capital city, there are plans to serve nearly 300 young women over the next four years. Tatianna said her only advice for those in situations like hers is simple.

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"Roca will advocate for you," said Tatianna. "They will go to bat for you. It just starts with you, and you have to want to change."

"We're grateful that city and state leaders recognize the challenges these women face and are joining us in the important and timely work ahead," said Bhalla.

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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