By Mary Anne Shea
Grand Island Professional Women's Chapter
Grand Island Professional Women's Chapter, New York State Women Inc., has organized the Forum on Domestic Violence/Abuse when it learned that Grand Island is ranked No. 1 in Erie County towns and villages for domestic violence arrests.
"The problems come when no one knows where to turn or how to get help," Diane Dinsmore, president of the Grand Island Professional Women's Chapter said, in explaining the need for the Forum on Domestic Violence/Abuse.
The forum will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Radisson Hotel, 100 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island. It is free and open to the public.
Speakers include Grand Island domestic violence victim advocate Joseph G. Chudoba of the Erie County Sheriff's Office Domestic Violence Unit, Grand Island Town Justice Sybil E. Kennedy, and Mary Travers Murphy, executive director of the Family Justice Center of Buffalo, which provides free services for domestic violence victims and their children. There will be survivor testimony.
Chudoba will discuss the referrals for services he makes in Erie County for counseling, anger management, child and adolescent counseling services, social services and benefits.
According to Chudoba, physical abuse is probably what most people think about when they think about domestic violence.
"Ways your partner may try to gain power and control over you also include things like isolation, economic abuse, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, coercion and threats, as well as physical abuse," Chudoba said.
Chudoba is available for support and information at his office in Grand Island Town Hall on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Victims can contact him at 716-341-0544.
Kennedy will speak on the role of the courts as it applies to domestic violence violations. She started a problem-solving court to handle domestic violence and alcohol and drug problems on Grand Island. She also was appointed to the committee that set up the first Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Erie County.
"Orders of protection will be discussed at length," Kennedy said, "as well as what punishment can be imposed on a second offender." She will also discuss the various sections of the penal law used to process these cases.
"Most of the victims are women who are at risk of serious and/or lethal domestic violation, especially if a separation has occurred," Kennedy said.
"No matter who the victim is, he or she has the absolute right to legal relief and protection. This is the main job of the court," she explained.
Murphy said, "no one deserves to be abused. Victims can be any age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational level, or income bracket."
"You're safe at the Family Justice Centers and you can get help for various problems all at one place. With 14 partner agencies, victims can get all the services they need free and with complete confidentiality, "she said.
The Family Justice Center of Buffalo is at 438 Main St., Suite 201, in the Main Court Building.
Two satellite offices are at 4383 South Buffalo St., Orchard Park, and at 330 N. Forest Road, Amherst.
Chudoba has worked in the human services field for 17 years, the last eight with the Domestic Violence Unit. He is a member of several local coalitions, assisting victims with multiple issues of domestic violence. In addition, he is president and co-founder of Re-Boot Camp Inc., which is developing a post-traumatic stress disorder campground for combat veterans.
Many will remember Mary Travers as the crusading consumer reporter for Channel 7 and as the Orchard Park town supervisor. She said her television experience, combined with the experience she gained as a town supervisor, serves her well in coordinating domestic violence services.
Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray will introduce the speakers and emcee the program.