Domestic Violence Victim and Baby Abandoned by Grace Smith House Shelter

October 31, 2011

What would precipitate a domestic violence victim and her baby to be abandoned by a shelter that is funded by the residents of Dutchess County New York and elsewhere? Lack of accountability for one and NO oversight. The domestic violence shelters, hotlines and victim service providers throughout the nation are operating below the radar of everyone – utilizing tax payer dollars and the dollars of many kind hearted charities and foundations while domestic violence and stalking victims are being left behind- one by one.

This case involves an Orange County New York domestic violence victim that has been emotionally tormented by her abuser and the shelter system for the better part of the week and her needs forgotten by our support system. Tri-County Crisis Center, Inc. stood by this victim as she was re-victimized by the very agency that was supposed be providing comfort, safety and advocacy.

TCCC participated in a phone call with this victim, our client, and the Director of Grace Smith House, Renee Fillette. Instead of the Director addressing the needs of the client, advocating, and having empathy for a woman that just lost her job, freedom, and dignity, the advocate’s priority was interrogating the victim in front of her child about Twitter and Facebook use. The advocates at the GSH had been monitoring her ‘tweeting’ and ‘facebooking’ over the course of a few days and were more concerned about her Internet use than her needs, which we had assessed to be 1. lawyer, 2. emergency relocation, 3. reporting the OP violation to the court. At one point, the Internet was actually shut down to impede the victim’s efforts to tell the public about the inefficiencies of the shelter and the inabilities of the advocates to assist her. Rather than creating a plan of action for each victim and executing it, Twitter, Facebook and their egos were on the top of their priority list for this particular victim in need.

“As a victim and survivor of domestic violence, I know how important it is for the needs of victims to be met immediately following an incident. When social networking and non-sensical issues become the focus of the advocating agency, rather than the victims immediate needs, victims are always left at a disadvantage. Extensive retraining of advocacy agencies needs to include personal and empathetic communication skills to better aid the physical and emotional needs of their clients. It seems that many of these advocates have lost their ability to identify with the plight of their clients.” Maria DiBari, Executive Director of TCCC.

Fortunately, Executive Director of TCCC, Maria DiBari was witness to an overly stressed victim of domestic violence become even more distressed and angry during the GSH interrogation. Not only had this mother lost her freedom while her abuser remained unpunished, but her privacy and first amendment right was now being violated by women who are employed to protect and build trust, not re-victimize. TCCC witnessed her innocent baby crying and as the victim begged “I need a lawyer, and I want to protect my child”.

TCCC tracked and advocated for this victim and her child from noon to 7pm, and kept in close contact as this woman’s life was being turned upside down. Once our client arrived at their original destination, the courthouse, the GSH made the decision to transfer the victim back to the same county that her abuser resided in, despite the fact that it would be dangerous for the mother and infant there. Not surprisingly, the victim protested and begged once again. As a high-risk victim that had been severely battered before, their was protest and the distress from the mother and baby was palatable. The advocates ignored her.

After hours of protest and miscommunication, it was reported by the victim that the advocates pulled over at a gas station and awaited police. This victim and baby were treated like prisoners, not like two individuals that survived a crime and needed help. Both mother and baby were abandoned at an unsafe location within shouting distance of the batterer and the advocates drove off.

Although the agencies listed are non-profits, they are funded through our taxpayer dollars. These are not volunteers, but well-paid executives abusing their power on the backs of victims.

“Dutchess County residents pay nearly 1 million dollars each year for the Grace Smith House to operate their shelter. This shelter only advocates for those victims that they deem worthy of their services. To make matters worse, these victims once housed in the shelter often have to pay a percentage of their income or welfare check for room and board. Although services such as GSH and Battered Women’s Services are government funded, they do not have to answer to anyone but themselves.” Alyssa Kogon, Administrative Director of TCCC.

At this time, both victim and infant child remain in danger and left behind by two support systems in neighboring counties. The batterer continues to walk free despite the violation of the restraining oder and GSH advocates have stood by, watched, and have been enabled by their lead agency, the NYS Coalition and Dutchess County.

TCCC is extending support to this victim and the advocating agencies in an effort to end the cycle re-victimzation. TCCC has limited resources and at this time cannot fund relocation for this victim, however if you would like to support this woman and baby, please donate to TCCC is working on relocating the family to safety.

If you, or anyone else has been victimized by a domestic violence agency, please file a formal complaint to the Attorney General’s office:

Tri-County Crisis Center and Survivors In Action are all volunteer non-profit organizations that provide direct support to victims of domestic violence and other crimes. Our efforts to promote DV Reform (domestic violence victim resource and public policy reform) stem from over ten thousand victims sharing their personal stories in six months of being abandoned by US DV agencies with White House Advisor for Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal, Congress, US Senate, local and state public officials, the US AG, State AG offices, ACLU, NOW, Social Security Admnistration, NNEDV, NCADV, State DV Coalitions and Partnerships, Women’s Law and thousands of non-profit agencies from across the nation.

Victims are being abandoned by the domestic violence establishments, law enforcement, the courts, and public agencies being funded by the private and public sector. Lives are on the line and continue to be needlessly lost.

Support DV Reform efforts help honor those lost to domestic violence by promoting DV Reform, domestic violence victim resource and public policy reform.