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DA John Flynn encourages victims and those at-risk of abuse to contact the BE SAFE domestic violence victim advocacy program for help
Submitted by the Office of the Erie County District Attorney
In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, District Attorney John J. Flynn reminds the residents of Erie County that his office remains a resource for victims of domestic violence and will continue to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. District Attorney Flynn encourages anyone, those who have been a victim of domestic or intimate partner violence, as well as those who may be at-risk for abuse, to inquire about services available through the BE SAFE domestic violence victim advocacy program.
The BE SAFE program specializes in domestic violence victim advocacy within the criminal courts. There are six victim advocates who work within the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, but BE SAFE is a separate and distinct program that provides trauma-informed support and resources to anyone who has been impacted by domestic violence. While the program primarily works with victims who are navigating the criminal justice process and rebuilding their lives following the arrest of the offender, you do not need to have a pending criminal case to speak with an advocate and access services, which include:
√ Individualized safety planning and risk assessment;
√ Supportive counseling, crisis intervention and case management;
√ Filing criminal charges and obtaining orders of protection with the assistant DA;
√ Accompaniment to criminal court proceedings;
√ Referrals to services, including counseling, medical care, housing and employment; and
√ Assistance in filing applications with the New York State Office of Victim Services and the New York State Address Confidentiality Program.
Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behavior by an intimate partner or family member that may include physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, isolation, verbal abuse, financial abuse and/or sexual abuse. Abusers may use other tactics to gain power and control of a victim such as minimizing, denying or blaming the victim for their own behavior, or making threats involving children. Some may not realize that they are a victim or at-risk of violence if the perpetrator has not become physically abusive yet. Abusive behaviors can happen slowly over time or quickly following a change in the relationship. If an intimate partner or family member exhibits behaviors toward an individual that restrict their personal freedom or cause fear/intimidation, that person may be the victim of domestic violence. It can be difficult and potentially dangerous to leave an abusive relationship, which is why it is important for victims to seek help and create a safety plan with an experienced advocate.
The Erie County DA’s Office has a bureau dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence-related crimes. Currently, there are 10 experienced assistant district attorneys in the special victim/domestic violence bureau who handle criminal cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
Our mission is to aggressively pursue justice on behalf of our most vulnerable victims while also being sensitive to the unique issues and dynamics associated with these crimes. Due to the sensitive nature of these investigations, prosecutors assigned to the special victims/domestic violence bureau receive specialized training and prosecute these cases by means of a multidisciplinary team approach designed to minimize the trauma suffered by the victims.
The special victims/domestic violence bureau has a dual mission: to prosecute offenders and to prevent them from harming the victim in the future. In addition to holding abusers accountable for their crimes, our assistant district attorneys work to secure orders of protection to prevent the defendant from having further contact with the victim.
To date this year, there have been six victims who have died as a result of domestic violence-related homicide in Erie County. This year, two of the victims were men who were allegedly killed by a same-sex partner. In 2021, all except one of the confirmed domestic violence-related homicide victims were female.
Anyone can become a victim of intimate partner violence or domestic violence regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or age. In August, a jury found 34-year-old Kenneth J. Parks of Buffalo guilty for assaulting an elderly family member in two separate incidents. He was convicted of one count of burglary in the first Degree (Class “B” violent felony), two counts of assault in the second degree (Class “D” violent felonies), one count of aggravated criminal contempt (Class “D” felony) and one count of criminal obstruction of breathing (Class “A” misdemeanor). He faces up to 32 years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 19.
“Domestic violence is a silent epidemic that thrives in an environment of secrecy and shame,” Flynn said. “It is important that we continue to talk about this issue, recognize the signs of domestic violence, and share information on how to access help. My office will continue to provide support for the survivors of domestic violence, and aggressively prosecute these offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
BE SAFE victim advocates are able to provide remote advocacy through phone outreach on any incoming case. To date, our advocates have provided 13,104 total units of service to clients this year. Those services include supportive counseling, safety planning, referrals, hotline assistance, crisis intervention, transportation, translations and applications for compensation through the New York State Office of Victim Services. Of those served this year, 989 individuals were new to the program.
Throughout the month of October, Old County Hall, located at 92 Franklin St., Buffalo, will be illuminated in purple to recognize the courage and strength of the survivors and to remember those who have lost their lives to domestic violence.
For more information on the BE SAFE domestic violence advocacy program, call 716-858-4630 or visit www.erie.gov/besafe.