Unemployed with a newborn baby, she hoped that the birth of their child would improve the relationship. But things only became worse. He became more abusive and began hitting her. She decided she had no choice but to leave.
One day, while he was out, she fled, taking her baby and their documents and nothing more. When she arrived at Family Court, Sally told a Safe Horizon case manager about the violence and how it was affecting her and her child. After going over her options with the case manager, Sally decided to request an order of protection against her husband. The case manager assisted her with the paperwork and later escorted her to the courtroom where the judge granted Sally’s request.
Even with the order of protection, Sally was afraid to return home with her baby. She asked if there was anywhere else that she could stay. The Safe Horizon counselor helped Sally contact the shelter hotline. That same day, Sally and her child were successfully placed in a confidential shelter for domestic violence victims where she has received counseling services and has applied for permanent housing. She obtained legal representation through the Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Law Project, and on the final court date she was awarded a final, two-year Order of Protection.
This is one of the cases that Nancy Shea, director of Family Court Programs at Safe Horizon and her staff deals with on a daily basis. And it is one example of how Safe Horizon helps victims of abuse.
From domestic violence cases to elder abuse, Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization, has been a beacon of light in people's lives for over 30 years. The organization offers more than 60 programs throughout New York City’s five boroughs.
Using telephone hotlines, community offices, domestic violence shelters, courts, and schools, they carry out their mission “to provide support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims, their families and communities.”
With an annual budget of $50 million and 700 employees, the organization has helped over 250,000 New Yorkers each year.
“We operate a reception center where victims can await their court appearances in a safe and comfortable environment,” Shea said.
The organization is one of many in the city tackling domestic violence in the midst of rising numbers. A recent report by the Manhattan District Attorney's office shows that there was a seven percent increase in domestic violence arrests and a 36 percent increase in indictments from 2009 to 2010.
The Queens District Attorney deals with roughly 12,000 cases of domestic violence each year, and the number keeps rising.
Safe Horizon community offices offer crisis intervention, practical support, information, education, referrals and individual and group counseling for victims of any type of crime or form of abuse. Transportation for elderly or disabled with a free car service, Metrocards, food vouchers, emergency clothing, cell phones, referrals for legal representation, immigration assistance and support groups are also offered.
“We negotiate the court system with the victim and make sure that they are able to get the most relief possible through the court,” Shea said.
Up until a few years ago it was impossible to use Family Court if the victim was not married or related by blood to the abuser.
“There's a fair access to Family Court now. One of the most upsetting situations that would present itself was a young woman pregnant by the abuser and living with him,” Shea said. “She would come to Family Court, but because she wasn't married to him or have a child in common yet, she couldn't use the court.”
With the new advances by district attorneys to combat domestic violence, such as the use of recorded phone calls, organizations like Safe Horizons are able to do a much better job at helping victims. Shea said that the future goals of the organization is to expand and enhance their services and to reach more people who feel they have nowhere to turn.
The Safe Horizon Hotlines are:
Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-621-HOPE (4673)
Crime Victims Hotline – 866-689-HELP (4357)
Rape & Sexual Assault Hotline – 212-227-3000