October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Council Members, volunteers, staff of advocacy organizations and survivors wore purple shirts, scarves and ties in solidarity for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, outside of City Hall, Oct. 6. They were drawing attention to the epidemic proportion of domestic violence episodes and their support of initiatives to fight domestic violence and women who suffer from or survive from it.

“Purple means passion,” one of the speakers said, and all who were there were fighting with fervor the toll domestic violence takes on women and their children.

Council Members Laurie A. Combo, chair of the Women’s Issues Committee and Vanessa L. Gibson, chair of the Public Safety Issues Committee led the press conference, which also announced that City Council was allocating $6 million, a 40 percent increase in funding, to support DV programs. These initiatives include CONNECT, Inc. (Community Empowerment Program), Domestic Violence and Empowerment (DoVE) Initiative, Immigrant Battered Women’s Initiative, and HRA Legal Services for Domestic Violence Victims.

It is recognized that domestic violence transcends gender, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. “Its overwhelming impact on the lives of New Yorkers, particularly women and children, is undeniable and will not be tolerated,” said Council Member Cumbo. “Domestic Violence Awareness Month is our annual call to action, to stop the violence.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson repeated a message that was heard more than once during the press conference, “Love should not hurt. We support healthy and loving relationships.”

Hundreds of thousands of domestic violence complaints are filed with the NYPD each year with a yearly, steady increase reported Public Advocate Letitia James. “In 2013, there was an average of 765 calls per day. This leads to depression, suicidal thoughts, binge drinking, sexual abuse and stroke,” she said. “It is important that DV is treated as a public health issue.”

It was also noted that frequently immigrant women don’t report the abuse for fear of deportation. “This affects victims and all of society. You do not have to stay with your partners for economic reasons,” she emphasized.

Borough President Adams made note that the structure of “what is a family” has changed considerably and abuse can take place inside same sex families, too. He reminded those gathered that abusers come from all occupations–judges, accountants, police officers, and bakers. “The hidden secrets behind four walls must come out,” he said. “It takes healthy families to raise healthy children,” he said, emphasizing the importance of connecting victimized loved ones and neighbors with resources to help them.

Among the organizations present with resources to help victims of domestic violence were Safe Horizon, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Safe Homes Project, Dominican Women’s Development Center, New York Legal Assistance Group, Women’s Prison Association, and The Healing Center.

Destiny Mabry, 24, spoke as a representative of Day One, the only organization in New York City solely devoted to the issue of teen dating violence. She admitted that she never thought she would be subject to domestic violence and speaking up at a gathering such as this. “I’m a strong, young survivor,” she said after sharing how ashamed, and in denial, shocked and depressed she had been. She joined support groups. “Now, I have a voice.”

Closing out the press conference, Council Member Andy King from the Bronx led a chant, “No more domestic violence!” and everyone there added their voice with the same message. Standing against domestic violence, he said, “Men, if you need help (controlling yourself), talk to a brother. Women, if you need help, talk to a sister.”

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