Skip to main content

domestic violence

Hawley advances legislative solutions to deal with domestic violence

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

As a result of a series of statewide regional forums hosted by members of the Assembly Republican Conference, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today spoke at a press conference in Albany on legislative solutions to combat domestic violence. The full report and all its recommendations have been made public.

The full report, A Safe Haven: Helping Abuse Victims and Enhancing Protections, can be found here.

“Domestic violence is a grave issue that has irrevocable consequences for families and society as a whole,” Hawley said. “I had the opportunity to host one of our conference’s forums in Batavia, and the testimony and information we received was both concerning and valuable.

"This is a complex issue, but after talking with law enforcement, advocates, victims and those on the frontlines around the state, I believe these recommendations will go very far in preventing domestic violence and helping victims feel safe again.”

Some of the recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • Providing financial assistance and relief to victims seeking alternative housing or living in a shelter to escape their abuse;
  • Declaring domestic violence a statewide public health crisis;
  • Creation of a new “Domestic Violence in the Presence of a Child” crime with harsher penalties for abusers;
  • Allowing domestic violence victims to obtain emergency panic buttons through local law enforcement or social services; and
  • Freeing up law enforcement to arrest more abusers and keep victims safe.

Ranzenhofer announces $25,000 for domestic violence services

By Billie Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer today announced $25,000 in state funding to support domestic violence crisis and prevention services at the YWCA of Genesee County.

“Victims of domestic violence don’t have to live in fear. Support, counseling and other helpful resources are available at the YWCA of Genesee County, and I am proud to provide the financial support for these important services. Together, we are working to end domestic abuse,” Ranzenhofer said.

YWCA’s staff worked with more than 700 domestic violence victims last year and is on track to serve about the same number this year.

“These victims’ lives are often uprooted due to domestic abuse, and they need to abandon all that is familiar to them, including their home, neighborhood and job,” said Assistant Executive Director Joanne Beck.

“Thanks to this grant from Senator Ranzenhofer, we will be able to ramp up our efforts to meet and work with other service agencies to provide the most well-rounded care and minimize further trauma to these victims.”

YWCA’s Coordinated Community Response efforts include establishing strong working relationships with other providers, such as law enforcement, the court system, fire departments and urgent care, in order to respond quickly and appropriately in times of any domestic violence crisis.

Grant funds will also be used for YWCA’s Prevention Education curriculum, which is presented to every school district in Genesee County. The course focuses on healthy versus unhealthy relationships and involves the characteristics of each, related activities and an overview of the programs and services available at YWCA.

Prevention education materials are distributed to students to share YWCA’s Care+Crisis Helpline number, which can be accessed via phone and text at (585) 344-4400, Live Chat at or call toll-free at (844) 345-4400.

About Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services at YWCA of Genesee County YWCA of Genesee County is the sole provider of domestic violence services, including safe shelter, for victims in Genesee County. YWCA USA is the largest provider of these services across the country. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment at our main site, 301 North St., Batavia, or through a 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (585) 343-7513. Walk-ins are welcome during the above designated hours.

Services include:
• Assistance with getting orders of protection, going to court and filing custody and support petitions;
• One-on-one counseling about aspects of an unhealthy relationship and making a safety plan for leaving an unhealthy relationship;
• Information and referral for community services;
• Support and self-esteem groups; and
• Transitional support for those in need of safe housing.

Community discusses domestic violence with assemblymen

By Maria Pericozzi


Victims of domestic violence, community-based domestic violence experts, representatives from nonprofit organizations, and members of the community gathered Tuesday night at the YWCA to raise questions and address concerns.

The regional event was hosted by Assemblyman Steve Hawley and included members of the New York State Assembly Minority Steering Committee.

“There is one overwhelming thing we all agree on, whether we’re from Downstate, Long Island, the city, North Country or Western New York,” Assemblyman Hawley said. “We all agree that there is a huge issue that used to be hidden, but is no longer hidden. It’s domestic violence.”

Assemblyman Al Graf showed the attendees a stack of “really stupid bills” that they had for domestic abuse, one of which included having victims wear an ankle bracelet monitor to track the victims.

Graf said they are hoping to continue to use technology to their advantage to come up with a better solution than an ankle bracelet monitor for victims.

“An alert button that would notify the police that a domestic violence alert button was sounded and here is the location,” Graf said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking at.”

Most panic buttons are inside homes, which won’t help, if the victim is not in their home, Graf said.

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio asked an attendee and survivor of domestic violence, “How would we protect you when your abuser gets out of jail?”

“The panic button alert system is something I would be comfortable with,” she said. “A name change, anything, so that I don’t exist anymore.”

Some communities use Justice Centers, which has everything that would be needed under one roof, providing services to get families back on their feet after the trauma. Graf said it would provide a one-stop shop.

Jeanne Walton, the executive director of the YWCA of Genesee County in Batavia, said they serve 30-40 individuals with domestic violence issues annually and what they could do with more resources for people would be unbelievable.

“If you gave us $75,000 tomorrow, we could set up a justice center right now in this room,” Walton said.

Walton said there needs to be a unified front for domestic abuse issues. Having counseling, education, and other services all under one roof is a start.

Diane Watts, of Shelby, spoke about her personal experiences and beliefs that there should be education in schools to stop it before it starts.

Watts shot and killed her abuser in 2002, after being a victim of domestic abuse for years. She was later found not guilty by reason of justification. She said the family of her abuser is into the sixth generation of abusers.

“You’ve got to find some way to stop that cycle,” Watts said. “We need to get it into the schools, we need to get it into the churches, and we need to get it anywhere we can to stop that cycle.”

Walton said the YWCA has been in the schools for the last two years, speaking to students during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“We went to every school in the county except one last year, and just about all of them the year before,” Walton said. “It was groundbreaking, the effect it had on people. Dedicating funding for that would be tremendous.”


Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, and Assemblyman Al Graf with some "really stupid bills" from his filing cabinet.


Regional forum on domestic violence and its impact to be held at YWCA on Sept. 19

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The consequences of domestic violence can last a lifetime. It is an epidemic that affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race or religion. It takes place in many forms – physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse – and the results are devastating. For that reason, the Assembly Minority Conference Steering Committee has been tasked to address the complex issues involved in the prevention of, and response to, domestic violence in New York communities.

The committee will hold regional forums focused on identifying gaps in services and programs for domestic violence victims, enhancing and creating pathways which ensure greater safety for victims and ensuring law enforcement measures are in place to hold abusers accountable. The third event will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the YWCA of Genesee County, 301 North St., Batavia.

“Domestic violence is a scourge that affects the lives of its victims forever. We must employ every tool to combat its devastating impact and protect those who have suffered under its oppressive grasp,” said Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia). ”By hosting this event, those impacted by domestic violence and those who work to prevent it can open up a dialogue and search together for new, innovative ways to mitigate domestic violence for its countless victims.”

Representatives from nonprofit service providers, community-based domestic violence experts, law enforcement and the criminal justice system have been invited to attend and provide testimony. Additionally, the committee will welcome written and/or oral testimony from families and those with firsthand experience of the tragic devastation domestic violence can inflict. 

“Domestic violence continues to tragically impact families across the state. As a former police officer, I have seen firsthand the toll these incidents can cause,” said Assemblyman Al Graf (R,C,I,Ref-Holbrook). “We must remain committed to a comprehensive approach which provides victims with the necessary tools and support to escape dangerous situations and holds abusers accountable for their gross actions.”

“Every day, victims of domestic abuse are forced to live in fear, suffer debilitating anxiety and face uncertainty about the well-being of themselves and their loved ones. This is simply unacceptable,” said Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda) Steering Committee Chairman.

“These forums will provide an opportunity to gather information about what is and isn’t working from all stakeholders involved, including those in law enforcement, the criminal justice system and community support programs. We want to help make our communities safer by providing greater protections for victims of domestic abuse and enacting policies that further prevent these situations from occurring.”

YWCA receives donation to assist domestic violence program

By Howard B. Owens


Lawley Genesee staff members Sherri Wahr, Beth George, Lori Crandall and Lisa Barie deliver a bounty of gifts to YWCA of Genesee County as a yearly effort to add some joy to a family affected by domestic violence that served by YWCA. The nonprofit has served more than 680 new domestic violence victims so far this year and is extremely thankful for the generosity of Lawley Genesee to brighten the lives of those impacted by domestic abuse, Executive Director Jeanne Walton says.

Photo and info submitted by Joanne Beck, YWCA.

YWCA of Genesee County expands outreach to provide free services to domestic violence clients

By Billie Owens

Press release:

YWCA of Genesee County has expanded into four areas of Genesee County as part of its ongoing effort to provide free services to domestic violence clients.

Beginning Dec. 1, Domestic Violence Liaison Amanda Bow will be at town halls in Bergen, Byron, Pavilion and Darien on designated days throughout the week. She will be at these satellite sites through June of 2017.

“This prevents people from having to travel farther from their home towns to obtain domestic-violence-related services,” Bow said. “Many of these sites may be within walking distance and be more accessible than our Batavia facility. Services are open to any Genesee County resident, and even if someone does not live here, I can refer them to resources in their own county of residence.”

She can assist victims and survivors of domestic violence with orders of protection, one-on-one counseling, crisis intervention, court accompaniment, safety planning and arrangements for safe housing.

This project was made possible with a grant from the Ursula Forem Domestic Violence Program Employment Fellowship program through the state Office of the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Objectives include an expansion of services to underserved areas in Genesee County, a support group each for adults and for children and to build a regional network of related agencies in Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Services are free and confidential. Appointments are not necessary and walk-ins are welcome. Bow will be available from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. at Bergen Town Hall, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. at Byron Town Hall, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Pavilion Town Hall and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday at Darien Town Hall.

To schedule an appointment with Amanda Bow, call (585) 813-3175.

Photo: Zonta members organize to assist victims of domestic violence

By Howard B. Owens


Dozens of members of Zonta Club of Genesee County gathered at the Dibble Family Center on Wednesday to stuff care packages with food and household items to give to victims of domestic violence.

Pictured are members of the committee, Ann Marie Brade, Mary Barnard, Beth Kemp, Heather Parker, Rhiannon Hawley, Patti Pacino, Kristen Elkins, and Karen Crittenden.

Zonta Club seeks money, toiletries and more for project to help 500 local domestic violence victims

By Billie Owens

The Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County is assembling personal care packages for victims of domestic violence and is working with the YWCA to distribute 500 bags.

The club is seeking donations to assist in the project. If you could contribute one or more items from the list below, it would be greatly appreciated!

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Lotion
  • Hairbrushes/combs/hair accessories
  • Shaving cream
  • Disposable razors
  • Deodorant
  • Journals/pens/pencils
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-Tips
  • Socks
  • Loofahs
  • Emery boards
  • Nail polish remover

***Volunteers will be assembling the bags at the Dibble Family Center in Batavia from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday Oct. 21.

You could also opt to make a tax-deductable donation of $50/$100/$150/$200 to help purchase items needed.

Checks can be made payable to:

Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County

And mailed to:

Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County

C/O Beth Kemp

ZONTA Domestic Violence Bag Project

3977 W. Main Street Road

Batavia NY 14020


For more information or to drop off items, contact Beth at 993-7747 or e-mail at

About Zonta International

The nonprofit organization has been empowering women through service and advocacy since its founding in 1919. It seeks to empower women worldwide by improving their legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status at both local and global levels.

Photos: Steve Tasker leads YWCA's Stiletto & Sneaker Walk

By Howard B. Owens


Former Buffalo Bills Special Teams star Steve Tasker kicked off yesterday's Stiletto & Sneaker Walk, a fundraiser and community event aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence. A number of GCC students and athletes, along with some high school athletes, joined in the walk this year.



YWCA Executive Director Jeanne Walton








YWCA gets $11,000 HopeLine grant from Verizon Wireless to help domestic violence victims

By Billie Owens

Press release:

YWCA of Genesee County has received a grant for $11,000 thanks to the generosity of the Verizon Wireless HopeLine grant program.

HopeLine's goal is to provide funding for domestic violence organizations as a way to support client services, raise public awareness, train staff or help in other related areas.

YWCA is in the process of developing a transitional program for victims of domestic violence. Its name of "You Engaging Success" means exactly that for victims who want and need to move on from a crisis: success comes through counseling, training and being more secure with social, financial, emotional and physical aspects of life.

"As an organization that strives to empower women, YWCA is the perfect catalyst for change in domestic violence situations. We know that this type of program can offer victims a boost for their self-esteem while providing practical lessons," Executive Director Jeanne Walton said. "We want to offer hope to victims and help them to move on with their lives. You Engaging Success is saying YES to a life free from physical or emotional abuse."

This new program is slated to begin by early 2015. YWCA, a nonprofit agency based in Batavia, has set a goal to raise $100,000 to get it off the ground and flourishing over the next several years. YW's Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services program serves approximately 700 new victims a year. If 10 to 20 people participate in the transitional program each year, that could have a residual effect on hundreds of others who are affected by domestic violence as friends, neighbors, family and coworkers, Walton said.

The new program would not be possible without generous businesses and organizations such as Verizon Wireless, she said.

Domestic violence is, unfortunately, a prevalent issue in our community, said Chris Felix, president of the Verizon Wireless Upstate New York Region.

"It’s organizations like the YWCA that are on the front lines of this issue, working hard every day to make our communities safer," Felix said. "At Verizon Wireless, we’re just fortunate to have some resources available to help organizations like the YWCA do their job. We thank the YWCA for everything they do to support domestic violence survivors in our community."

For more information about YW's programs and services, which also include quality child care and a Summer Adventure Camp for kids, call (585) 343-5808.

Batavia pastor speaks at candlelight vigil for Batavia woman

By Daniel Crofts

City residents gathered at the front lawn of the YWCA Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Nicole Sheehan. Sheehan, a former Batavia resident, was murdered by her boyfriend in Chautaqua County in June. She was 29 years old.

Roula Alkhouri, pastor of Batavia's First Presbyterian Church, called Sheehan's murder a "senseless loss" in her address to the crowd.

She noted that domestic violence is "ancient," and cited victims mentioned in the Bible -- including Dinah, the daughter of the patriarch Jacob, and Tamar, the daughter of King David.

Additionally, she called attention to the need for more awareness of domestic violence in our own times by sharing some startling statistics. According to Alkhouri, research shows that one in every four women will become the victims of domestic violence.

"How many relationships begin as stories of love," she said, "and then become stories of fear."

But she also had some words of hope -- and a call to action.

"Yes, there is ugliness and cruelty in the world," she said. "But the goodness and love in the community often outweighs this."

As the candles began to die out, Alkhouri encouraged everyone to "keep the candles lit in (their) minds, because bad things can only hide in the darkness."

"It's in changing who we are as a community that we'll make a difference in the world," she said.

As an example of the "light" she was talking about, she mentioned the YWCA. She expressed gratitude that Genesee County has a "safe place" where victims of domestic violence can come to hear that they are cared for, that it's not their fault, and that there is hope.

In addition to Alkhouri's address, the night included some brief comments by YWCA Executive Director Jeanne Walton and Domestic Violence Crisis and Prevention Services Director Cindy Earl, as well as some music and light refreshments.

For more information on the YWCA and its services to victims of domestic violence, call 343-7513 or visit their Web site.

YWCA reminds residents that domestic violence can have serious consequences

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

YWCA of Genesee County extends its heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Nicole Sheehan, a 29-year-old Batavia native who died from an apparent domestic violence shooting a week ago in Lancaster.

This tragic incident is another painful reminder that domestic violence is about so much more than arguments and debates; it can have grave consequences, Executive Director Jeanne Walton said.

As a gentle reminder that YWCA is here to help with Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services, the agency will be lighting its walkway this week at 301 North St. as a visual display that there is hope, Walton said. Victims can always confidentially call YWCA for guidance, help and referrals to appropriate avenues that will take them out of a potentially harmful situation and into safety.

"We ask that people join us in spirit as we light up our walkway in Nicole's memory," Walton said. "And to please help -- through your increased awareness -- those others who may be struggling with a domestic violence situation. We offer advocacy, safe housing and, perhaps most importantly, a 24-hour hotline so that everyone has opportunity to reach out for help when needed."

Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services Director Cindy Earl said there is usually a Domestic Violence Services office in each county. If you're unsure about where to turn for help or guidance, call the hotline at (585) 343-7513.

"Everybody's mission is to find a safe location for a potential victim if they think the person's abuser is going to do something harmful," Earl said. "We take them very seriously and will do everything we can to put them in a safe location."

Sometimes abuse is not evident to friends, family and coworkers, she said. If you even suspect that something like that is going on in someone's life, reach out for help. And if you are in a relationship that makes you feel threatened in any way, make the call. It's free and confidential.

Got mums? Friday's the deadline to order them to benefit YWCA Domestic Violence Program

By Billie Owens

If you'd like to get some mums to look festive for autumn, the YWCA of Genesee County, in cooperation with the Enchanted Florist downtown, is offering beautiful ones for sale to benefit its Domestic Violence Program.

A container of these lovely flowers in all the great fall colors costs $6.50 and there's no limit in how many you can order.

To order, please call the YWCA at 343-5808 by Friday, Sept. 28 at the latest.

Orders will be available for pick-up at the YWCA, located on North Street, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7.

Maria's story as a Domestic Violence Survivor

By Tami Underhill

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  The following testimonial is from a local woman, within the Tri-County area, who survived domestic violence through her own determination and the assistance and support from local resources.  Maria's personal story was provided to the Orleans County Domestic Violence Task Force in an effort to raise awareness about the very real violence that is in our community...and how you can help.

Client Testimonial
NOTE:The following story is excerpted from the statement and U visa declaration of one of the clients of the FLSNY/VRC/IIB’s Farmworker Domestic Violence Program. This testimonial is being published with the client’s permission on the condition that all identifying details are changed to protect the privacy of all parties involved. 
            "I married my husband in Mexico in 1999.  His violent behavior towards me started that very day. I was menstruating, and told my husband we would have to hold off having relations. Oscar wasn’t having that, he forced himself on me, saying we are married now and you are mine, my property. He stated that he wanted to “get me any where he could.”  I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to have sex but he hit me repeatedly and said if he couldn’t have sex vaginally he would get me from the back. He continued to beat on me while he forced his penis into my rectum.
            For the next nine years I endured this type of treatment. His violence towards me included physical beatings, unwanted painful sex forced on me including sodomy and oral sex. I was forced to watch pornographic movies to “learn how it’s done”.  Humiliation, degradation and verbal obscenities were an everyday occurrence. He would point to the women in the porn films and say “look at those bodies, that’s the kind of woman, I craving for. I don’t know why I married you”. He would drag me by my hair around the house saying I was nothing but a lazy fat girl, good for nothing, an idiot, he said that I didn’t know how to please a man, he would have to go to prostitutes to have it done right. One day he was so angry he actually kicked me in the vagina. He hit me frequently and did whatever he wanted to do with me; I was only 16 and a half. He said that the woman was good only for bearing children and taking care of them and had to do what their man said. 
            I never told anyone what was going on for fear that he would retaliate in some way. He always threatened me that if I told anyone he would cause more harm to me and to my family. I had no one to turn to that could help me in my situation. I didn’t have options to choose from. I had no support to speak of, in my country it doesn’t matter whether your marriage bad, you are told to stay and work things out, no matter the cost. This was my mother’s continual advice, she would say that she endured great hardship with my father, so why couldn’t I. She didn’t want our family to be without a father, why should it be any different for me. Since I was a little girl my mother had treated me very poorly. She made me feel that because I was born a female I had no value, I was worthless. My mother would say to me that women reek, that what we carry “stinks” and that men are different. My mother displayed more love for my brothers because they were males then she did for me, a female. To her a woman was filthy, revolting, disgusting - to be loathed. I heard that so many times that it became a part of me, how I felt about myself.
     After we were married we resided with my grandparents. My grandparents would give us food, and they also provided a room for us. My husband would abandon me days on end, to go and drink; sometimes he would look for work, other times he didn’t bother. He was a constant threat to my grandparents because he often threatened them with physical harm, or would shove them especially when they tried to intervene for me. My grandfather was sick with diabetes and was frail; my marital problems with Oscar and Oscar’s threats were too taxing for him and affected his health, eventually the stress took a greater toll on his health and my grandpa died. I did not want bring harm to my grandparents; I didn’t know where else to go, outside help didn’t exist for me.   Even so, Oscar’s abuse took its toll and it wasn’t too long after that that my grandpa died. When Oscar did work, he never left me any money; his pay went for his vices, having fun in the bars, drinking with women, buying his beer and cigarettes. At times when he didn’t have his own money he would take money away from me to go drink, sometimes he would use drugs and that is when he would hit me the most.
     I became pregnant with my first child two months into my marriage. My husband said the baby I was expecting wasn’t his and who knew where it came from, Oscar said “what man left his curdled sperm in you?” Just a few days before my son was born, my husband beat me relentlessly. That day I summoned the courage to file a lawsuit against him, I had witnesses and affidavits to testify on my behalf, only to be told by the judge to return to my husband. The judge said I had to be with him because he was my husband and I would have to put up with him, he knew what he was doing. That day my husband asked me to forgive him and that he would never again lay a hand on me. The judge encouraged me to give him an opportunity, so I did. Before we got home he started with me, calling me profanities, “you stupid bitch, there you go opening your big mouth, gossiping.” My husband said “the next time you want to go bearing tales; you won’t live to tell them.” He went on to say “I already told you I am like this and I am not going to change and if you want to you can go screw yourself, you son of a bitch”.
My son was born in 2000. Two weeks after he was born my husband went out to get drunk again. When he returned home he beat me, I became very sick from that incident and close to losing my life. Once again he asked me to forgive him, this time I told him that I wanted to leave him, my grandmother supported my decision but they were too poor to help support me and my son. My parents did not support me in my decision, they protested, they complained that it would not look right for me to leave my husband. Fortunately for me, something unexpected happened in August of 2000, the authorities put my husband in jail; I was told that he had done something disrespectful to another woman, and he had to do jail time. I never found out the exact details of what happened but the break from his abuse was a welcomed relief.
 In 2001 I started selling chicken, tamales and buñuelos in the streets to be able to support myself and my son. I also did laundry and ironed clothing to make a little money. We couldn’t rely on Oscar; his money went for his vices.
In October of 2003 my husband came to the United States, and he left me behind with his mother.  I lived in her house with our son, for seven months when my husband pleaded for us to join him in the U.S. We entered the United States without inspection in 2004. I had hoped that we would have a better life in the U.S., my husband had been going to church, and said that with pastoral guidance he had turned his life around. Shortly after I arrived in the states, I found out that it wasn’t so. It wasn’t long before he had hit me; forced acts of sex on me that I abhorred, his old habits were in full swing, abusing me and my son, and continued his drinking, drugging and prostitutes.
In 2008, I was pregnant again but had made the decision to leave my husband, once and for all. We had separated soon after that.   My husband was threatening me with if I didn’t go back with him he would report me to Immigration so they could put me in jail. He never wanted me to have any friends. When I spoke to a friend he said it was because he was my lover, if it was a girlfriend I was speaking with, it was because she knew my secret of whoring around.
 In 2008, I was sleeping in bed when there was a very loud knock on the door. It was around 12 am. My husband called me on the cell phone and told me to open the door; he said “I want to catch you in the act you bitch”. I told him that we had already split up, he had no business being there and that and I didn’t want him to come looking for me, or to come and bother me for any reason. He said if I didn’t open the door he would call immigration on me, he was banging on the door very hard. I had already been picked up by Immigration and had an upcoming court date in the deportation process. I finally went and opened the door; he barged in and immediately snatched the cell phone from my hand. I pulled it away from him but he pushed me and he hit me in the stomach, many times and very hard. Almost immediately I began having contractions and vaginal bleeding.  It was a few days later when I went to the hospital; I was told by the doctor that my baby had died. They would have to remove the baby from my uterus; I was 8 weeks along in my pregnancy. From that moment on I was like a crazy person and I wanted to die. I felt terrible for the death of my baby son. I came to hate my husband even more than I ever had before. 
Two weeks after losing my baby, I started working again. My husband would come for the children in a drunken state and he would take them in that condition, I was not able to stop him. He would hit the children frequently; he hit my older son with a belt on various occasions. One day he left him black and blue and sent him to school; they took notice at my son’s school, and another report was filed, the department of Social Services became involved.   We both were under their supervision; I never spoke up out of fear from my husband’s continual threats of retaliation. He continually threatened to call Immigration on me if I dared speak up against him, “what will you do then?” he would say. “They will put you in jail and take your children away from you.”  He would also threaten me with Immigration to coerce me into having sexual relation with him, nothing was sacred.   I remained separated from him. There were other similar instances of the same nature, abusing the children, followed by subsequent charges and report to Child Protective Services.  
          In October around 6 am, my husband came to the house, he tried opening the door by force and managed to do it and come in the house, and then he left. Shortly after that, he started knocking on the windows saying he was going to kill me and my lover; he always accused me of having one, since I wouldn’t go back to him. He said he wanted to kill me that day; he had a knife on him and also a gun. He showed the gun to our oldest son, and motioned to him that he was going to hurt me with it. He started physically fighting with me, wanting me to leave with him, and he said to me, “do you want to see, you son of a bitch, if I really call immigration?”  The police were called and arrived quickly, but he had already left the house. I showed my bruises to the police, they were on my arms and legs. The police were still at my house; writing their report of what occurred to me and the children, when he called me, the officer wanted to speak to my husband, I handed him the phone. The police officer told my husband they wanted to see him. When he returned, the police officers met with him on the patio and told me and my children to remain inside of the house. Since he had come to the house with a knife and a gun, they did not want to take any chances with our safety.  After a while, the police arrested him and took him away. The policemen said not to worry him and that he wouldn’t be bothering me again.   I explained my legal situation to the police; they gave me information as to who I could call to help with my dilemma. 
            Because I was now safe from my husband’s abuse, I could finally open up and tell the worker from Child Protective Services what had been going on in my home, and with my children. I told them that he had been the one beating us, abusing us, taking the children by force in his car when he was not in condition to drive. I told them that he had gone to jail at last because he had forced his way in my house, he had beat me in front of the children and he had come there with a gun making threats to kill me.  He showed the gun to my son and signaled to my son that he was going to hurt me with it, and he would be deported very soon. All the charges against me were dropped, the case was closed.
          After all of that turmoil I went to see a doctor, all those years of being hurt and threatened had taken a toll, leaving me feeling very frightened, frustrated and nervous. There were times I didn’t want to go on living. I saw a doctor; he was the doctor from a local clinic. I told the doctor the things that I had been through and he prescribed certain medications that could help me. Since I began taking this medication I feel much better. Taking the medication and meeting with my counselor help manage the depression I have. My children tell me and I can see that they are happy now; things are going better for them in school too. 
          I am afraid to return to my country, my children and I will be in danger. I fear my husband, and returning to my country will put me and the children in great physical danger again. The laws in my country do not protect women and children living in abuse as they do here, in the United States. What would become of me and my children if these laws and services were not available to victims of crimes here in New YorkState?
            So I am especially grateful that my children’s teacher at the Even Start program referred me to the Domestic Violence Project of Farmworker Legal Services of New York and the VictimResourceCenter. With the aid of the project attorney arrangements were made for me to turn myself into immigration, as I had missed a court appearance while in the hospital when I lost my baby. Immigration put me under supervision with an ankle bracelet for 9 months, but as the attorney had begun my application for a U visa, within 3 months I was given permission to work and obtain a social security number, and now I am obtaining my license to drive as well. Most recently, after a final immigration court proceeding, my deportation case has been closed, and I am now waiting for the final word on my application for the U visa.
            I appreciate immensely all that is being done on my behalf and that of my children’s to help and protect us.  I wish to give special thanks to my attorney, Denise, from VictimResourceCenter and also to Alina and Cheryl from Farmworker Legal Services, and Cynthia from the VictimResourceCenter. Without their assistance, I would not have come this far.  They have saved our lives. God protect you and bless you all.  I am praying that my immigration status will be ultimately resolved with the grant of a U visa, and that the children and I can find rest from violence and torment, and that we can continue to live in peace here in the United States

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Tami Underhill

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Orleans County Domestic Violence Task Force has chosen to educate the community about important recent changes to the New York State Domestic Violence Law.
As of July 2008, there are fewer barriers to legal protection for victims of domestic violence. Civil orders of protection and mandatory arrests are now available to all individuals who are involved in intimate relationships. 
Before this change in the law, victims of domestic violence were only able to obtain a civil order of protection if the victim and the perpetrator were married to each other- either currently or previously, or if the victim and perpetrator had children in common. Otherwise, the level of abuse would need to be at the criminal level for the victim to obtain an order of protection through Criminal Court. These stipulations also applied to mandatory arrest laws.
Recent changes, referred to as “expanded access”, now provide additional legal protection to victims of domestic violence who are in cohabitating relationships, same-sex relationships, teenage relationships, and other “unmarried” intimate relationships. 
New York State is the last state in the United States to make these changes to the domestic violence law.
You can find additional information about expanded access laws on-line, through the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
I am also available to provide additional information at Catholic Charities,
343-0614, x16.

Looking for a reporter

By Tami Underhill

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. 

As a social worker through the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Catholic Charities, I sit on the Orleans County Domestic Violence task force.  Our task force would like to educate the community about recent changes to the domestic violence law, including expanded options for access to orders of protection. 

Our next meeting is October 1st, in Albion and we are looking for a reporter from The Batavian to develop a story about the expanded access laws.  If anyone is interested, please contact me to discuss this further.  Thank you.

Video: Scholarship winner strives to help other women in need

By Philip Anselmo

Cheryl Lewis of Bliss was recently awarded the Jeanette Rankin Foundation Scholarship of $2,000, which will permit her to switch from part-time to full-time studies to obtain a degree in paralegal studies at Genesee Community College. The Batavian sat down with Cheryl earlier this week to talk about her studies, her struggle to escape an abusive relationship and her plans to give back. Cheryl was kind enough to put that experience in her own words in a follow-up letter, and since I can do no better at expressing her intentions, I've included that complete letter (see below).

"My name is Cheryl. It’s been more than twenty years since I graduated from high school. I would never have dreamed that I’d be in college today. At one time, I was filled with such dreams, such goals. I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to be successful; I wanted to be rich… I wanted it all.

"I thought I had met the man of my dreams, but I was so very wrong. I chose to be with him rather than go to college. The day I made that decision was the day I lost me. I just didn’t know it yet. I am a survivor of domestic violence. After suffering years of emotional and physical abuse I was finally able to escape. I still have the scars, but I also have my freedom.

"My daughter and I had to live in a shelter for battered women and children for a while, but it was there that I suddenly realized that I still do have dreams. Gone was the feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind that makes you want to cry in self-pity. I looked around me and I saw other women with not only bruises on their bodies, but also on their souls. I knew at that moment that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these women and others like them.

"Going through the court system with all the legal formalities, I was scared and very confused. There was a lot that had to be done to obtain a restraining order. I knew others had to be just as afraid. Thus, it was my ordeal through the system that gave me the idea to attend college for the purpose of becoming a paralegal. Then I will have the resources to offer assistance to other abused women.

"My ultimate goal is to someday reopen a shelter for domestic violence victims in Wyoming County that was closed due to lack of funds. Within this shelter women and their children will be provided with a safe environment in which they can try to piece together their shattered lives. I hope to provide legal assistance, counseling, resources for finding a new place to live, and a second chance at happiness.

"Over the past two years, I have gone through a tremendous transformation. I no longer feel I am worthless and I am so very proud of getting myself and my daughter out of a dangerous situation. And I do make a difference – in the life of my child. I have an awesome responsibility in making decisions that will shape the life of a precious individual. And I am rich – in love and family. I do have it all. Or at least all I need to have.

"There have been many wonderful people who have helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. Those individuals have inspired me greatly and I want to emulate them and hopefully make a difference even to just one person."


The most common response to domestic violence – “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

Answer: Shelters are often full, and family, friends, and workplace are frequently less than supportive. Faced with rent and utility deposits, day care, health insurance, and other basic expenses, the woman may feel that she cannot support herself and her children. Moreover, in some instances, the woman may be increasing the chance of physical harm or even death if she leaves an abusive spouse.

A few statistics:
• 85-95% of all domestic violence victims are female.
• Over 500,000 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year.
• 1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. What can each of us do?
• Call the police if you see or hear evidence of domestic violence.
• Speak out publicly against domestic violence.
• Take action personally when a neighbor, co-worker, a friend, or a family member is involved or being abused.
• Reach out to support someone whom you believe is a victim of domestic violence.
• Help others become informed, by inviting speakers to your church, professional organization, civic group, or workplace.
• Support domestic violence counseling programs and shelters.

If you or someone you know needs help: National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE

All of the above information and statistics were provided by Cheryl Lewis.

Authentically Local