The month of October is usually spent in preparation for what lies on its last day; a day of mockery and blatant insensitivity (in all good fun), Halloween. But for millions of others who have hidden behind masks on a day-to-day basis, who share similar stories of abuse, it is also known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (which was enacted by Mayor Rudoph W. Giuliani on October 1st, 1999).
The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence opened in the City of New York, November 2001. The vote came about from city residents who chose to vote for the amendment of the City Charter to be replaced with a permanent office instead.
The need for such a change had been advocated for many years prior. Governor George E. Pataki was the first governor to begin a fight for such an office, publicly declaring a plan for funding on December 14, 1996. With the aid of four grants, NYC totaled nearly $1.5 million to combat domestic violence. Administered by the New York State Department of Health, these grants were given to provide families and adolescence with violence prevention and safety.
“Fighting domestic violence takes action on two fronts – law enforcement and services for victims,” said Pataki. Seven years later, it all came into fruition. In 2001, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Yolanda B. Jimenez as the first commissioner to head the new office; a position that she remains today- 8 years later.
This office provides a sense of safety and stability for victims, monitoring the delivery of domestic violence services around the city. They also work within communities to increase awareness, from community leaders to health care providers, city agencies to representatives from the criminal justice system, to insure that batterers are held accountable, assisting with solutions and critical steps that follow for both victim and oppressor.
Since January 2002, the office has helped gain 35% more shelters citywide. Statistics from the 2008 fact sheet states that the Domestic Violence Unit conducted 72,463 home visits (a 93% increase since 2002); that 134,903 calls were answered via the Domestic Violence Hotline, averaging nearly 370 calls per day; and 70 family related homicides were accounted for. (71% of which had no prior police contact, and 93% of which had no current order of protection.)
Services they provide for victims range from the NYPD (response, arrests, follow-up), Legality (connects victims with District Attorneys; restraining orders), Housing (shelters, subsidized permanent housing, etc.), Counseling (for victims and family), and Treatment (healthcare) amongst others.
Earlier today, the Commissioner spoke about the role her office partakes in the prevention and awareness of dometic violence, “Domestic violence does not discriminate, and we continue to seek innovative solutions to help all domestic violence victims achieve safety,” said Yolanda B. Jimenez. “Victims do not have to suffer in silence. We provide assistance through the criminal justice, health, and social service systems to all victims and their children.”
At this event, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced the introduction of the Domestic Violence Civil Protection Act. This act was designed to force legislation that would broaden protection for domestic violence victims who are abused by their past or current domestic partners, or live-in boyfriends or girlfriends. Another responsibility of the city, another dash of hope for its victims.