DA Flynn encourages victims and those at-risk of abuse to contact BE SAFE for help
Submitted by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office
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.
Flynn encourages anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence or may be at-risk of abuse to inquire about services available through the BE SAFE Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy Program.
The BE SAFE program specializes in 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
√ 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, making threats or blaming the victim for their own behavior.
A person 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. If an intimate partner or family member exhibits behavior toward an individual that restricts their personal freedom or causes fear, 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 to seek help and create a safety plan with an experienced victim advocate.
BE SAFE victim advocates are able to provide remote advocacy through phone outreach on any incoming case. To date, our advocates have provided 13,569 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, 1,091 individuals were new to the program.
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 multi-disciplinary team approach designed to minimize the trauma suffered by the victim. 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.
“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.”
Throughout the month of October, Old County Hall, located at 92 Franklin St., Buffalo, will be illuminated in purple in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month to acknowledge 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.