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Domestic Violence Awareness

Domestic Violence Awareness: Focus at YWCA's annual breakfast was on children, wrongly viewed as 'secondary victims'

By Billie Owens

Press release:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and, as often as domestic violence is discussed during October, there is often one missing component in the message.

“Domestic violence is a devastating social problem that affects every segment of the population. Children are considered secondary victims of domestic violence and this is not the case,” says YWCA’s Support Services coordinator Sherry Crumity. “Children often hear and see violence at home, and through that exposure they have emotional, mental and social damage that can affect their developmental growth.”

That was the message during YWCA’s annual Partner Agency Breakfast Wednesday at the nonprofit’s North Street site. The event is a way to recognize those people that work in law enforcement, legal and justice systems, government, business and human service fields to help reduce domestic violence in the community.

Why the focus on children? Since 2015, two dozen victims and 46 children have sought safe housing at YWCA’s shelter. That means 46 little lives have all been touched by domestic violence right here in Genesee County this past year alone. Nationally, one in 15 kids is exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 70 percent of abusers seeking treatment witnessed domestic violence as a child.

This type of violence does not happen in a vacuum, said Dr. Alisa Hathaway of Project Stronger at Mount Hope Family Center. She explained it simply after a video showed one young girl’s sadness due to the abuse in her home.

“She feels invisible,” Hathaway said to the audience of about 50 people. “There’s not something wrong with her but what has happened to her.”

Children exposed to domestic violence exhibit signs of aggression, anxiety, stress, destruction of property, depression, bedwetting, challenging authority, headaches and/or nightmares, Crumity said.

Since services for children began at YWCA earlier this year, seven out of 10 have met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be a long-lasting struggle, she said. She has worked with adult clients who have gotten “stuck” at the age they first witnessed domestic violence.

“Children who have witnessed domestic violence often have confused and contradictory feelings.  When the violence happens, children may feel scared and ashamed, or they may even think that they caused the problem,” she said. “Worse, they can grow up thinking that it's okay to hurt others or let other people hurt them.”

While most people are aware that domestic violence may include emotional, verbal, physical, sexual and even financial abuse, trauma and its signs may not be as obvious. Trauma is one’s response to a perceived threat to survival or emotional well-being. Even if a child seems “fine” on the outside, that doesn’t mean he or she is truly emotionally stable, Hathaway said.

In fact, care providers need to pay attention to those kids in particular, she said. They can be feeling shutdown, numb and separated from normal life, and therefore pull away from activities and relationships.

Crumity believes that it’s crucial for partner agencies, which also include health care professionals, schools and churches, to be trained in trauma-informed care and the effects domestic violence has on children.

“This way they are able to identify and refer families to services,” she said. “The training conducted today by Dr. Hathaway was a major step in addressing the gaps in services for children exposed to domestic violence.”

What to do? Hathaway offered some “essential elements” for providing this type of care:

  • Recognize the impact trauma has had on a child;
  • Help the child to feel safe and understand his or her problem behaviors;
  • Respect and support the child’s positive, stable relationships;
  • Be an advocate for the child and encourage trauma-focused assessment and treatment.

There is another element that is the anchor to all of these suggestions, Hathaway said.

“Take care of yourself,” she said. “It is equally important that trauma care providers take care of themselves.”

For more information about domestic violence and YWCA’s services, call (585) 343-5808 or YW’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at (585) 343-7513.

YWCA's Domestic Violence Awareness Walk is Oct. 6, newly certified as 5K course, too

By Billie Owens

Press release:

YWCA of Genesee County has decided to step things up with its annual Domestic Violence Awareness Walk by offering a USATF (Track & Field) certified 5K for runners and walkers alike.

Described as a mostly flat and fast course, this race will also include family activities, Limited Edition purple baseball caps, a few words from Notre Dame High School Principal Wade Bianco and a purple powder finish line celebration. Bianco recently earned an honored spot in the Coaches category for the Section V Football Hall of Fame.

The event is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at YWCA, 301 North St.

“We don’t ever want to lose sight of why we started the walk in the first place: to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence,” Executive Director Jeanne Walton said. “But we are also aware that people love 5Ks! Three miles is just far enough for serious runners to feel competitive and not too far for walkers to enjoy as well. We strongly encourage people of all ages to wear some purple and help us to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

A professional timing company will be on site with an inflatable arch and results will be available to participants during and after the event. Prizes will go to overall fastest male and female finishers and to the top two male and female finishers in each age category: 19 and under; 20-29; 30-39; 40-49; 50-59; 60-69 and 70-plus.

Perhaps the most notable aspect will be the haze of purple powder as participants engage in friendly interaction of tossing the clothing-safe powder on one another and in the air. Purple is the signature color of domestic violence awareness and will play a key role in coloring the day, organizers said.

For those that may work up an appetite, the YW’s traditional Harvest Supper will also be served that day from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Takeouts will be available. The supper is a way to highlight the area’s agricultural industry with hearty soups, stew, crusty breads, fresh fruit desserts and many other items that highlight ingredients provided by local farms and ag producers.

Cost is $25 for the 5K, $8 for the supper, or $30 for both events. Kids 10 and under may walk for free and Limited Edition 5K baseball caps will go to the first 150 paid registrants. For more information, go to or call (585) 343-5808.

Former Buffalo Bills player Steve Tasker to lead YWCA's annual Stiletto & Sneaker Walk

By Billie Owens

Press release:

YWCA of Genesee County is calling upon former Buffalo Bills Special Teams player Steve Tasker to help kick off this year’s annual Stiletto & Sneaker Walk. He will give opening remarks, go on the walk and be available for a meet-and-greet session afterward.

The walk is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 at YWCA, 301 North St. The walk is $10 and free for children up to 12.

YW Executive Director Jeanne Walton wanted to incorporate schools, especially athletics, into this year’s events as a fresh way to approach an old and ugly topic. Her main impetus was a well-publicized domestic violence incident by a National Football League player last year, and the lack of response by League officials.

It was an opportunity to turn a negative event around by fully addressing the topic of domestic violence, Walton said.

“Unfortunately, I really didn’t see that happen. So I thought on a local level we could do something in a very special way, and primarily through athletics," she said. "Steve Tasker has been a strong voice of the NFL for many years, both as a player and now as a sportscaster, and he seemed to be a great fit as spokesperson for this important topic.”

Tasker’s appearance is part of a collaboration between Genesee Community College and YWCA. GCC plans to bring more than 200 athletes to participate in this Domestic Violence Awareness Month event as part of the state’s requirements to provide related education.

“We’re excited. Last year the student athletes had a good time,” GCC Dean of Students Jennifer Newell said. “The importance of this topic goes beyond the college campus. I think we’ve got a nice partnership going.”

The college campus, and all nine school districts from Genesee County, are helping to push a YW initiative of #Thurple, a reminder to wear purple, the signature color of domestic violence awareness, on Thursdays throughout October.

The college and many area high school football and other sports teams will also be wearing purple socks during the month as a visual display in support of healthy relationships.

“Because domestic violence is not just a women’s issue, we want the support of men and women alike," Walton said.

Sometimes people living in the middle of a domestic situation don't even recognize that it's atypical from healthier surroundings, said Notre Dame High School Principal Wade Bianco.

That's one reason why he feels strongly that his school should be part of October's events.

"If you tell all the kids that this behavior is not normal, it shouldn’t be happening, then they know what to look out for. It’s good to teach them what’s right and what’s wrong,” Bianco said.

He and leaders of Alexander, Batavia, Byron-Bergen, Elba, Le Roy, Pavilion, Oakfield-Alabama and Pembroke have agreed to support the cause by wearing purple socks and clothing, hosting YW staff for a related assembly, painting pinkies purple, going on the annual Stiletto & Sneaker Walk and/or other activities as ways to raise awareness that domestic violence exists.

Purple socks will be available for purchase at the walk. Other awareness events include YW’s yearly Community Harvest Supper, a showcase of local agriculture’s finest, from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at YWCA and Kickstands Up for Domestic Violence Prevention at 1 p.m. Oct. 3 at Stan's Harley-Davidson on West Saile Drive.

The supper is $8 and the motorcycle ride is $15 for the driver and $10 for passenger, and includes a meal afterward. All proceeds will go to YWCA's Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services programs.

For information or tickets, call (585) 343-5808.

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