Reports of domestic violence in Monroe County are down for the sixth year in a row, according to data from the Willow Center for Domestic Violence. However, these rates still remain higher than the New York average.
The data from the Center’s 2017 Monroe County Domestic Violence Report to the Community was released Thursday morning during a proclamation to make October Domestic Violence Awareness month.
"This is an ongoing significant problem that impacts not just those who are the victims of domestic abuse and violence, but it's a widespread affect in our community,” said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. She made the proclamation with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “When we raise awareness, as we are doing today, we draw attention to the fact that domestic violence knows no bounds.”
During the press conference, Jaime Saunders, CEO of Willow, announced the use of remote court orders of protection and HEAL, or Healing through Education, Advocacy and Law. The latter is a new program based out of the University of Rochester’s Medical Center at Strong Hospital. Both, she said, reduce some of the barriers victims may face when accessing resources.
“A person who enters 'HEAL' can receive immediate safety planning, file for an order of protection, connect with a social worker and engage with ongoing clinical support as needed," Saunders explained. "Right from HEAL, the victim/survivor can be connected to the range of Willow services, from shelter to counseling.
“You know the need is there to make it easy for survivors to access this support," she continued. "It’s hard enough reaching out for help. So imagine the benefit of eroding barriers…The goal really is to make it seamless and as easy as possible."
She said remote orders of protection will also help. Typically a visit to the Hall of Justice is necessary to get a court order. However, last year New York State amended the Family Court Act to allow New Yorkers the ability to file for temporary orders of protection from a remote location. It's the first state in the nation to pass such an amendment. And earlier this year, Monroe County made history, according to Saunders. The first remote order of protection was issued from a hospital setting for a young woman who’d walked into Strong Hospital, heavily injured.
“She was beaten so badly her face was unrecognizable,” said Saunders. “Our Willow advocate was called from the HEAL collaborative and made her way to the Emergency Room….after working with the victim the advocate was able to file a remote order of protection, right there, bedside in the Emergency Room.”
While the conference focused on the new initiatives and recently-released data, there was also a focus on the community’s part in preventing domestic abuse and helping victims.
“It is OK to speak up. Don’t be silent,” said Dinolfo. “When you’re a victim of domestic abuse, speak up. There are resources to help you. When you see domestic violence don’t be silent. And you know what? When you’re at your kitchen table and this is something that doesn’t impact your family, talk about relations, talk about the right way to treat people and make sure that you stand up and take action when you see something.”