November 5, 2011
TCCC has been working with a victim of domestic violence for several months and things have been looking bright for the young woman, who survived horrible assaults and threats over the years. If I could say we had a poster girl for surviving domestic violence, she would be it-strong, ambitious, and resilient. Maria had personally worked with this woman for a long time, and made sure she and her baby were safe and working towards the goal of being independent and happy. In fact, TCCC was working on securing a scholarship for the mother to go back to school and earn her college degree. Our client was working a full time job and doing the best she could to support her child.
Suddenly, our client’s situation was quickly destroyed. Her abuser showed up at her door, despite the Order of Protection against him. As we all know, Orders of Protection don’t work and are rarely enforced. Almost every domestic homicide in Dutchess County, NY this year involved a broken OP or restraining order.
She did everything right and called the police. They showed up 20 minutes later but did nothing to ensure her safety. She went to the station to file a complaint, but somehow, this never was accomplished. Out of fear and with great struggle, she once again entered the shelter system she had recently escaped from.
The shelter she entered actually put her in more danger, and instead of being a place of security, the shelter made her situation worse. She and her baby were volleyed like a tennis ball between two different shelters in the Hudson Valley, Safe Homes and Grace Smith House. Our client is a very bright young woman and a user of social media, a volunteer at TCCC, and an activist against DV. After a day of using Twitter and Facebook to speak out about advocates not properly assisting her at the shelter, the advocates started monitoring her posts and would not stand for her criticizing the system she was in. After a few short days, she and her baby were kicked out of the Grace Smith House and were back on the streets. She landed right back into her apartment, the same apartment her abuser visited the night she called 911. Once again, she was in fear for her life and the life of her baby.
Although the odds were against her, she was determined and focused and was rehired back at her old job-the job she lost at the shelter due to lack of transportation for victims. The shelter failed our client, but our team was inspired to continue to help her find safety and security despite the fact that we are a non-funded agency. While the shelter kicked this victim and baby to the curb in the middle of the night, we continued to fight for this woman.
As Co-Founder and Administrative Director of TCCC, I was assigned to the case and focused on finding solutions for this family. Unlike other agencies, our team works on solutions for the most complex cases and ensures resolutions to problems most cannot tackle. I was very dismayed that the abuser had not been charged with any violation of the Order of Protection. He continued to walk the streets a free man, while she and her baby lived in fear. I could not fathom that not one advocate in the shelter system had bothered helping her properly report the crime.
It took exactly two, well placed phone calls to remedy the situation. First, I called the District Attorney’s office in Orange County. He gave me the number of a police contact to speak to in the same police department that she had originally gone to for help. After explaining all of the details to this officer, he requested a meeting with our client. She went to the police station, filed the proper documents, and an arrest warrant was issued for her abuser. She also learned that her abuser had a warrant out for his arrest in another state. Once arrested, he would not easily get out again. The police promised to regularly patrol the area where she resided until an arrest could take place. Our client and her baby do feel a certain amount of relief, but will breathe much easier after her abuser is apprehended.
The moral to the story is- there is no moral. There is only work; thinking outside of the box and working off the ‘clipboard’ is how TCCC operates and why we are successful at assisting victims throughout the entire victimization cycle. For DV Reform to truly take place, we need selfless individuals in charge. We don’t need shelter directors and advocates who care more about their image and ego than their victims. We don’t need politicians who take on domestic violence issues because it makes them “look good” to the public. We certainly don’t need fundraisers, where well paid domestic violence advocates give each other awards for doing their job. We need advocates that are there, thinking, helping, and working outside of the box to help victims of domestic violence.