Domestic Violence: Beyond the Headlines

Domestic Violence: Beyond the Headlines

As Domestic Violence Awareness month comes to a close, SPCC therapist Crystal Foster, M.S. reflects on her work with children and families impacted by Intimate Partner Violence, reminding us that there is a “rest of the story” beyond the headlines … Continue reading

#WhyIStayed

Contributed by: Jessica Brumbaugh, LMSW, SPCC Evaluation & Program Director

With recent headline news involving domestic violence, SPCC thought we might add some of our thoughts, as a group of professionals who work with women* and children facing similar and horrifying life circumstances. For many people, the question “Why doesn’t she leave?” immediately pops up in our minds, similar to “why wouldn’t someone swerve to the side when they see an oncoming car?” Unfortunately, relationships riddled with domestic violence are not as simple to navigate, and usually do not begin violent. They often begin in all too common ways…two people, attracted to each other’s best sides, expressing their love, care and commitment to each other. And then, things change. For some the change happens overnight. For others the change is slow – an almost imperceptible shift from health to abuse. And what used to be a positive, life-giving relationship begins to appear differently. Tone of voice changes. Behaviors change. Rules and expectations begin to surface. And suddenly, one person is in control. One person sets the tone. And one person delivers the consequences.

To complicate matters, we know that domestic violence in the home increases the risk of child maltreatment and that children are also more likely to intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent – placing them at great risk for injury or even death. (NCADV.org)

So Why Doesn’t She Leave?

Some facts to consider:

  • Only 20% of intimate partner violence (IPV) victims who seek orders of protection in court actually obtain them.
  • Of those who do obtain protection orders, 50% report that the perpetrator has violated the order.
  • 1/3 of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
  • A victim of IPV is at the greatest risk of being killed at the time they leave and during the two weeks that follow. (Studies show that the victim is 77 times more likely to be killed during this time frame.)

Sources: National Center Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org), Safe Horizon (safehorizon.org)

Common Barriers & Thoughts for women considering leaving:

  • Lack of resources
    I have no money or job
        I have no friends or contacts (isolation)
  • Family Responsibilities & Values
    I don’t want to lose my children
       My children need a father
       Leaving goes against my faith
  • Feelings & Beliefs
    I’m sure he will change. He’s good inside.
        He loves me. No one else will love me. (low self-esteem)
  • Fears about leaving
    He said he’ll kill me
        He said he will take the children
        I have nowhere to go
        He threatens to kill himself
        The police & court will never believe me

We hope that by reading through some of these tough realities for women and their children who are experiencing domestic violence, you will be equipped with facts and a deeper level of understanding. And that in doing so, you will also be able to stand up in any way possible for the silent victims of domestic violence that are often unheard, unseen and yet exist in every community in this country and beyond.

For more information, and to learn how you can help support victims of domestic violence, please visit the following sites:

http://www.ncadv.org
http://www.safehorizon.org
http://www.rmcdvc.org/
http://hopesdoorny.org/about-domestic-violence/

*85% of domestic violence victims are women. (NCADV.org)

A Brief History of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Monroe County Executive, Maggie Brooks at the 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness Month Press Conference.

Monroe County Executive, Maggie Brooks at the 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness Month Press Conference.

Representatives from the Rochester, Monroe County Domestic Violence Consortium who represent many of the local domestic violence agencies will gather Tuesday October 1st at the Victim Recourse Center for the reading of the proclamation by Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became a special week when a range of activities were conducted at the local, state, and national levels.

These activities were as varied and diverse as the program sponsors but had common themes: mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived, and connecting those who work to end violence.

In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. That same year the first national toll-free hotline was begun. In 1989 the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress. Such legislation has passed every year since with NCADV providing key leadership in this effort.

In October 1994 NCADV, in conjunction with Ms. Magazine, created the “Remember My Name” project, a national registry to increase public awareness of domestic violence deaths. Since then, NCADV has been collecting information on women who have been killed by an intimate partner and produces a poster each October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, listing the names of those documented in that year.

The Day of Unity is celebrated the first Monday in October. NCADV hopes that events in communities and regions across the fifty states will culminate in a powerful statement celebrating the strength of battered women and their children.

Please visit SPCC’s website and ‘like’ our Facebook page to learn more about the events being offered throughout Monroe County in honor of the Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Lisa Butt, CEO

Society for the Protection and Care of Children

From “Chaos and Turmoil”… to Peace and Success

  From “Chaos and Turmoil”… to Peace and Success

A Mother recollects the impact of SPCC’s Family Trauma services with Hilda Saltos, LCSW, almost 10 years later.

Hello! My name is Marthenia. I have two sons – Tahmir & Jaelin. I’d like to give a brief overview of how my family became involved with SPCC. In 2004, I was married with two young children. However, our home was not a happy one. It was filled with chaos and turmoil. Needless to say, I had to make a decision. I could continue living this way and let it have a negative effect on my children or I could do something about it. I was definitely at a crossroad in my life. My ultimate decision was to proceed with divorce. Once I began the process and began attending court, “things” took a turn for the worse. My children and I felt trapped!

After attending one of MANY court appearances, a law guardian for the children asked if I would like a referral to SPCC. He explained to me what SPCC would do to help my children and me. I agreed, and about a week later I met with Hilda Saltos. The rest was history! Hilda was very understanding, helpful and kind. She was very instrumental (yet non-judgmental) in assisting me with referrals and advice which enabled me to move forward.

Fast forward…it is now 2013. My children and I are blessed to be living happy, peaceful and successful lives. We own our own home, and I am now working as a licensed practical nurse. Both Tahmir and Jaelin have a strong interest in art. Both are also honor roll students, with excellent attendance and a bright future ahead! We are very thankful to have met Hilda and been able to utilize the services of SPCC!

Tahmir's artwork Jaelin's artwork

Tahmir’s Art Work                        Jaelin’s Art Work

Safe Havens: A Monroe County Community Collaboration

 

Safe Havens: A Monroe County Community Collaboration

Written by: Jennifer Sullivan, Alternatives for Battered Women

Guest Blogger

Together with Core Collaborative Partners, including Alternatives for Battered Women, SPCC’s Supervised Visitation Program recently received funding from The Office of Violence Against Women. The Safe Havens program affords an opportunity for communities around the country to provide supervised visitation and safe exchange of children in situations involving domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. Throughout the year, representatives from the court system, county human services, the professional domestic violence community, and the visitation center attend trainings and collaborative workshops with other grant sites around the country.  The last training was in Reno, Nevada in June, 2013. SPCC asked Jennifer Sullivan to share some thoughts about her experience as a collaborative partner.

After returning from a recent Safe Havens conference, I began reflecting on what this program really means to our community. One example immediately came to mind.  Last year a mother came into Alternatives for Battered Women’s (ABW) Court Advocate Program seeking protection for her and her four year old child. The physical and emotional abuse she experienced at the hands of her husband increased in intensity throughout their years together. This mother found the strength to leave, after realizing the impact the abuse was having on her young child. The first thing ABW helped mom with was safety planning. We do this, because we know the facts: 75% of women that are murdered by their abusive partner are killed after the victim decides to end the relationship (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1988).  Through ABW’s assistance, the court granted an Order of Protection, and gave dad three unsupervised visits per week with his daughter. The visits were to be ‘as agreed upon’ instead of a set visitation schedule created by the court. This required the mother and father to negotiate the details, despite the fact that their relationship was conflictual and dangerous.  After court, mom and dad tried to decide on a plan for visits, and while conversations between them always started off about their child, they quickly became abusive.   Dad used these legitimate  and necessary conversations as an opportunity to threaten and harass his ex-wife, continuing the cycle of abuse.

After weeks of hostile conversations between mom and dad, a visitation arrangement was settled on, and the young child began to visit with her dad a few times per week. While mom was still anxious about safety, she hoped this arrangement was a step toward growth and healing for her child. After a few visits, dad began asking his daughter seemingly innocent questions about what she had been doing and where she had been spending time. Innocently, the child answered her dad’s questions; what time she got picked up from pre-school, and her favorite fast food restaurants. She told her dad about her mom working at nights, and what park she loved going to.

A few days later, mom and her daughter stopped by the grocery store a block away from their house, on their way home from pre-school. When they returned to their car, mom found it unlocked with a note rested on the driver’s seat that said,

“I will find you. No matter what”.

Now, this mother recognized the importance of her child feeling connected with her dad. But mom started to wonder if she would ever be safe.  It was clear to this mom that her daughter was being manipulated to share information during visits; seemingly innocent information that could give clues to their whereabouts and routine, resulting in serious danger. Increasingly frightened, mom began to wonder if her child was safe during visits.

With ABW’s support, mom decided to return to court and asked that visits between her daughter and ex-husband be supervised by a professional to keep everyone safe.  Because the daughter had never been directly, physically abused by her father however, the court allowed for the father to continue unsupervised visits, and suggested that exchanges occur at the mother’s home while dad stayed in his vehicle. At the first visit following this court decision, dad went right up to mom’s front door, instead of waiting in his car. When the mother told him he was not supposed to do this, dad pushed her up against the door and began to strangle her. The four year old child stood right next to mom as this happened, yelling at her dad to stop.

Sadly, for children and adult victims of domestic violence, this type of visitation experience is not unusual. While courts and systems truly want to keep everyone safe, a lack of awareness, training, and community resources mean that the cycle of domestic violence can occur for years after the intimate relationship ends.

During my years with ABW’s Court Advocacy Program, I have worked with many victims of domestic violence. They face numerous and complex obstacles; even more when there are children involved. There is a delicate balance between providing safety and accommodating visitation so that a healthy parent-child relationship can be maintained or developed with both parents. While it is important for children to have positive relationships with each of their parents, we need to ensure that all individuals involved are kept free from physical and emotional harm. Too often, Orders of Protection are violated during visits or exchanges and parents experiencing domestic violence situations are forced to interact. If the safety of a family is compromised to the point where an Order of Protection is warranted, then it often makes sense that safe, supervised visits and exchanges should also be arranged.

Luckily, Monroe County has invested in a program to help these families. The Safe Havens Grant is funded through the Office of Violence Against Women, and services became available for families earlier this year.  This money is granted to community collaborations that work together to support children and adult victims of domestic violence that participate in visitation with their other parent. SPCC is the visitation program for Monroe County under the Safe Havens Grant, and has visitation specialists trained specifically to provide safety, nurturing and support to these children and adult victims. Together with their collaboration partners, Judge Dandrea Ruhlmann from the court system, Monroe County Department of Human Services, and ABW, SPCC is able to work with 75 families every year. These are 75 families that wouldn’t have access to safe visits otherwise.

I have spent the last few years as a core collaborative partner in Monroe County’s Safe Haven’s Grant. As the domestic violence specialist with Safe Havens, it is my role to make sure there are no gaps in safety at the visitation center.  I represent and give voice to adult victims of domestic violence when policies and procedures are created and when safety decisions are made. As the collaborative team developed the Safe Haven’s program, I spent hours walking through the Visitation Center and leafing through the policies and procedures manual to proactively anticipate and address any safety concerns.  My role with Alternatives for Battered Women and my collaboration in this grant allows me to refer adult victims directly to an individual professional at SPCC who can help support and guide them. Intensive training, continual program improvement efforts, and close collaboration with community partners allow us to support healthier relationships while keeping families safe. I am proud of the hard work we have done to shape this program, and I am confident that the safety provided to families at this center is of the highest quality and should be a model for others.

For further information regarding Alternatives for Battered Women, please visit their website at: http://www.abwrochester.org/, or call their confidential Hotline at (585) 232-7353 or TTY (585) 232-1741 (24 hours a day).