On the road to ending domestic violence

Last week, at a domestic violence forum in Richmond Hill, it was apparent: We have come so far – and have so much further to go.

The 106th and 102nd precincts should be applauded for their efforts to hold what they said would be the first in a series of forums on domestic violence – a problem that, if it hasn’t affected you directly, almost definitely has impacted the life of someone you know. As a number of the police officers involved in last week’s event noted, domestic violence transcends all socio-economic classes and cultures – meaning those with whom you work, go to school, or attend religious services could be facing a life no one should have to face – at all, and certainly not alone.

Just in New York City alone, police responded to 263,207 domestic violence incidents in 2012 – a 79 percent increase over 2002. (Remember – that increase is not necessarily occurring because there is more abuse happening but because people may be feeling more comfortable reaching out for help as the stigma surrounding domestic violence slowly erodes.)

So, yes, the police, and all those who participated in last week’s discussion, need to be thanked and supported for shedding light on a topic that is a major and deep-rooted problem in Queens – and has been called an epidemic plaguing the entire country.

But, considering the fact one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime, and that every year, one in three women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner – there was nowhere near the kind of crowd that should have been there.

The fact that such a forum is being held at all, considering the stigma that once kept most domestic violence victims – which, it is important to stress, can be men and women and both young and old – from ever reaching out for help, is an accomplishment. But we, in Queens, in this country, and around the world, are nowhere near claiming victory in the war that is domestic violence: We are far, far from such a day.

We are in a better place than we were not that long ago. Prosecutors and district attorneys are going after abusers hard – and police are being trained how to better respond to domestic violence situation – and to the victims. Abuse is being talked about far more in the open than it once was, and there are a myriad resources available to those who are suffering from abuse – or who know someone who is.

And that is what we really want to stress: If you, or someone you know, is being hurt, please – we cannot emphasize this enough – please reach out for help.

Here are some organizations that have a proven track record helping those facing domestic violence – including offering protected shelters, counseling for you and your children, and help with planning to leave an abusive partner or spouse, among many, many other services, including elder abuse services and legal information.

The New York Family Justice Centers – which are in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn – are walk-in sites for all domestic violence victims and their children. In Queens, the center is located at 126-02 82nd Ave., and their number is (718) 575-4500. The organization provides legal help, support groups, access to housing, a children’s room where your little ones can play while you get help, spiritual support, and more.

Individuals may also call a toll-free hotline run by Safe Horizon, which operates sites throughout the city, at (800) 621-4673 (HOPE). The hotline operates toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or, if you’d rather email, you can do so at help@safehorizon.org.

Additional groups can be found on the state’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, nyscadv.org, and the city’s domestic violence site, nyc.gov/html/ocdv.

A child abuse hotline can be called at (800) 342-3720, the elderly crime victims resource center may be reached at (212) 630-1853, and the NYPD’s sex crime report hotline is (212) 267-RAPE (7273).

Remember: You are not alone. Whether it’s a friend or someone you’ve never met on the other line of a hotline call, there is help out there. All you have to do is ask.


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