STAMFORD — Connecticut advocates for victims of domestic and sexual violence on Friday decried cuts to federal funding they said would prevent them from operating hotlines, or providing other essential services to survivors.

Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed $18 million in state funding to fill the gap in victim services and to fund housing assistance programs for those experiencing domestic violence.

The governor’s proposal followed a recent Hearst Connecticut Media Group investigative series that uncovered numerous ways key public systems in the state had failed to adequately address intimate partner violence, including stagnant funding to curb the problem.

Other advocates have also called for life sentences for those convicted of murder related to intimate partner violence.

The proposed influx of state money also comes as advocates said the pandemic, now in its third year, has seen a historic rise in calls from victims in need of help.

“It was a couple years ago that we first got the call — first infection, Danbury Hospital, a nurse,” Lamont recalled Friday afternoon during a press conference at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford to highlight the proposed funding.

In the early days of the pandemic, the governor said the state’s 211 hotline soon began fielding “hundreds” of calls from people scared if they were going to live. Then the messages turned to people wondering when their unemployment checks would arrive, the governor said.

“Living had a different meaning at that time, too,” Lamont recalled. “People didn’t know how they were going to survive, physically, from one month to the next.”

Along with an increase in sexual and domestic violence, the governor pointed to other societal ills that increased in the last two years, from an increase in shootings and crime to unruly behavior in schools.

“These are symptoms of something a lot more serious. You see it in domestic abuse and sexual violence, you see it opioid abuse, you see it in just rank bad behavior in some of our high schools,” Lamont said. “And it’s going to be with us for a while.”

Suzanne Adam, executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford, said bridging the gap left by cuts in federal funding “will simply save lives.”

“Domestic violence thrives in isolation, the pandemic provided that evidence without a doubt,” said Adam, whose organization serves Stamford, Norwalk, Darian, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton and Weston.

The organization saw a 25 percent increase in counseling services per client in fiscal year 2021, Adam said. Advocacy services increased 147 percent, while safe house stays nearly tripled from 19 days to 52.

“The affordable housing shortage in Fairfield County has made it extremely challenging for domestic violence victims, most of whom have experienced some level of financial abuse, and are at a disadvantage in this highly competitive rental and housing market,” she added.

For some who spoke on Friday, the question of providing services and funding for victims fell close to home. State Rep. Corey Paris, D-Stamford, recalled his youth growing up as a “child of abuse.”

“I hid a lot of things, I hid bruises that I had, I hid feelings that I had,” he said, describing how difficult it was to see families “living normal lives,” while he kept his experiences hidden.

“So governor thank you for your lifeline to me as well,” he told Lamont.

Meghan Scanlon, president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an organization that represents more than a dozen domestic violence service agencies, said the money would help organizations maintain the services they’ve provided for more than 30 years.

“You can get a sense of how devastating it would have been to lose this funding,” she said. “It would have meant we would lose our crisis response, we would lose our ability to advocate for basic needs, we would lose our court-based advocates, we would lose our law enforcement advocacy. So all of these essentials that survivors deserve when they’re seeking to get out of a violent situation would have all been eliminated.”

She said if the funding does not go through, more than 100 jobs could be eliminated from the statewide domestic violence network. The money is also needed to run a statewide domestic violence hotline.

“Just in 2021, we had over 28,000 contacts to that hotline via phone, text, email and chat, and we have seen that increase even throughout the couple months of 2022,” she said.

Lamont has also unveiled a proposal that would prevent someone convicted of a crime involving family violence from being granted a gun permit in the state.

That proposal, and others the governor has unveiled that would tighten access to guns in the state, comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on a challenge to New York’s law governing the carrying of guns outside of a person’s home.

“People who have been found guilty of domestic violence carrying pistols just seems nuts to me,” Lamont said Friday, when asked about the possible implications of the pending Supreme Court case on his legislative gun proposals.

“Yeah, I’m worried they’re gonna take away states like ours’ ability to keep people safe … we’re gonna watch that carefully,” he added.