By Larry Thaul
Overall, there has been a surge of domestic violence (DV) reports nationwide since June. Fully one in four people may experience an abusive relationship over a lifetime. More than 15 million children in the U.S. live in homes where DV has occurred at least once, making them at greater risk for repeating the cycle by entering abusive relationships as adults or by perpetrating the abuse themselves. These reports came from experts on domestic violence at the October 13th meeting of the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit, co-hosted by LMC Media.
Susan Carroll, Esq., Director, Training, Outreach and Education at the Pace Women’s Justice Center (PWJC), defined “intimate partner violence” as a pattern of abusive behavior characterized by threats and actions beyond physical abuse to include varieties of control and coercion: sexual, verbal, emotional, and financial. These might include stealing, limiting access to accounts, disclosure of LGBTQ or disabilities, and manipulating child custody arrangements. She pointed out there are often many barriers preventing victims from coming forward: undocumented status, housing crisis, food instability, income dependency, and public shame. Ms. Carroll said that PWJC offers free walk-in clinics in White Plains and Yonkers where the courts hear the cases. PWJC features a one-hour free consult for housing, custody support, and related issues. Their website (https://law.pace.edu/wjc) gives the full range of programs along with the contact phone numbers.
Lieutenant Sandra DiRuzza, a 16-year veteran of the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department, founded the DV unit there. She said in 2019 they had 168 reported DV-specific incidents, though 2020 has not shown a significant uptick. She pointed to the changing societal attitude, from DV being a private, family matter, to DV being a crime, making it more likely to be reported now. In 1994 the landmark Family Protection and DV and Prevention Act from the NYS legislature called for the mandatory arrest of same-household alleged perpetrators where the officer believes a specific crime has been committed, regardless whether the victim wants the arrest made. The objective is to hold accountable those guilty of abusive behavior. Referrals come to the department via local agencies, schools, and the family court. Lt. DiRuzza and the VOM Police Department are committed to investigating reported incidents and providing assistance to victims to end the cycle.
Another helpful resource is the Westchester Community Opportunity Program/Victim Assistance Services (https://westcop.org/victims-assistance-services/) . Edith Ramos, a bilingual victim advocate there, described the organization as providing free and confidential assistance to victims of DV. She stressed that victims should use the Helpline, confidential Chat option, and the all-new ‘Text-Us’ option on their website. She noted that the insufficiency of shelters is a growing issue.
Interrupting the cycle of violence before it starts is the goal of Quentin Walcott, co-executive director of CONNECT (https://www.connectnyc.org/) . Most of their programs are geared toward women and girls, and batterer intervention. But his group also works closely with boys and men to help them understand their role as men and fathers. They work on changing underlying thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, resulting in better choices and outcomes.
A list of organizations for help with domestic violence can be found on the Local Summit website: https://www.localsummitlm.org/.
This forum was co-hosted by the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit and LMC Media. The Local Summit is an informal community council that seeks to make life better for all in the tri-municipal area. To learn more about The Local Summit: https://www.localsummitlm.org/. Their next program, which will focus on “Eviction” will be held on Tuesday, November 10, 8:00 am.