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State Officials Honor Stamford Women For Halting Sexual Assault

Kerilyn Whitehead, left, and Jessica Feighan show their commendations to Cliff Benham, a board member with The Center. Photo Credit: Contributed
Left to right are Stamford Police Chief Jon Fontneau, Sean Boeger, Stamford Police Association Union President, Jessica Feighan, Kerilyn Whitehead, Sergeant Rhett Connolly and Officer Mark Zaramba. Photo Credit: Contributed
Rep. Caroline Simmons presents the award. Photo Credit: Contributed
Ivonne Zucco, Executive Director of The Center, Rep. Carlo Leone, Rep. William Tong, Jessica and Kerilyn, Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, Rep. Caroline Simmons, Sean Boeger, Chief Fontneau. Photo Credit: Contributed

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Stamford residents Jessica Feighan and Kerilyn Whitehead were honored as upstanding citizens for stopping a sexual assault in progress in December 2014 in a ceremony led by State Rep. Caroline Simmons and several other community officials.

Feighan and Whitehead were honored for “Saving A Woman By Calling The Police And Assisting Officers In The Performance of Their Duties To Protect The Community.” The commendation was presented at The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education (The Center) in Stamford. Members of Survivors Helping Inspire New Endings, "SHINE", a advisory survivor of sexual abuse group at The Center, also attended the ceremony.

In December 2014, Feighan and Whitehad risked their own safety to intervene when they saw a woman being dragged down the street by two men. They immediately called police to report.The police stopped the rape being carried out by one of the men, and took both men into custody. The two men are now imprisoned and awaiting trial.

Simmons said: "Public vigilance and bystander intervention are key components to keeping our community safe. I applaud the courageous initiative Jessica and Kerilyn took to alert the police in order to try to prevent a sexual assault from happening. Their brave actions are an inspiration to all of us and we are so grateful for their heroism."

“I don’t think that what we did was a big deal,'' Feighan said. "We followed our gut feelings that something was not right with the whole situation, so we helped.” Jessica is now interested in becoming a hotline volunteer for The Center and spreading the message to youth that it is everyone’s responsibility to help.

Whitehead is interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement and is currently completing her master’s degree in social work. "People need to be aware that this goes on all the time and when someone sees something that doesn’t look for feel right, it’s okay to say something,'' she said.

Ivonne Zucco, executive director of The Center said, “We are so fortunate to be able to hold this ceremony for Jessica and Kerilyn. They are a true example of what can be accomplished when we step forward and intervene in these types of cases. The Center focuses much of its prevention programs in making us all part of the solution. Bystander intervention is one of our main programs, and we are so happy to know and collaborate in the future with these two outstanding women. They make our community and their families especially proud.”

The Center serves Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

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