19th Annual STOP F.E.A.R Conference
The Center for Safety & Change, Inc. (the Center) is a nonprofit agency serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes in Rockland County, NY. Since its inception in 1979, the Center, formerly known as Rockland Family Shelter, has been the sole service provider to victims of sexual assault and their families. The Center’s Sexual Assault Program includes a 24-hour rape crisis hotline, counseling and therapy, a 15-bed emergency residential shelter, services for families of survivors, support groups, and a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner program at both of Rockland’s acute care hospitals.
In the last reporting quarter (June-August 2016), the Sexual Trauma Program provided 2,521 services to 160 victims, of which 63 were new clients. This reporting period (September-November 2016), the Sexual Trauma Program provided a total of 3,424 services to 168 victims, of which 47 were new clients.
This quarter, the Center worked with a client who was first referred to the agency by a family friend who was renting a room on the second floor of the client’s private house. The client had disclosed to her friend that she was being repeatedly raped and physically abused by her husband. The rapes led to internal injuries and the client contracted STD’s from her husband. The client attended church regularly and disclosed each week, to her pastor, the ongoing abuse she endured. The pastor advised her to pray more.
One night, once the children fell asleep, her husband began to rape her, but this time, strangled her as well. The client passed out and eventually woke up to him laughing. She tried to run out of the bedroom, but he blocked her from reaching the door. She began to cry and yell “Why are you doing this to me!?” The family friend on the second floor overheard the argument and contacted the police. When police arrived at the home, they were forced to break the door down to gain entry. The police found her unclothed and crying in one corner of the bedroom and her perpetrator was hiding under the bed. The police arrested the perpetrator, however, during the criminal court trial, he was released as the jury found him not guilty because they believed there was insufficient evidence.
Once released from jail, he requested visitation with his children. The client, who had been victimized for many years, refuses to let her husband victimize her children. The client is currently utilizing her sessions at the Center to be empowered and to have a voice not only in the court system, but in her life. The client is now able to look at her perpetrator in the eyes and not feel shame. The client states that she felt like an abused cat when she was being victimized, but now she feels like a lion. The perpetrator’s visits are currently suspended until a family court trial is completed and a decision has been made by the court. The client shared that although she is undergoing much uncertainty with the court system, she is not afraid and feels empowered because she has a voice and has finally been believed.
Lastly, this quarter, the Center co-hosted the 19th annual STOP Family Abuse, Endangering Women, and Children, Abuse of All Kinds, Rape and Sexual Assault (STOP F.E.A.R) Coalition Criminal Justice Conference. This year’s presentation was facilitated by Kevin M. Mulcahy, Assistant U.S Attorney, who focuses on child exploitation crimes. In his presentation entitled “Randy and Me: A Prosecutor's Story of His Childhood Sexual Abuse,” Kevin discusses his own experiences of child sexual exploitation and relays lessons that he feels can be helpful to the professionals who assist victims of these crimes. This year, nearly 200 law enforcement personnel, victim advocates, social service providers, prosecutors, and community members attended the STOP F.E.A.R. conference. (Attached photo shows the Center’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Santiago, as well as the Deputy Executive Director of Programs and Legal Services, Kiera Pollock, with Kevin Mulcahy at the STOP F.E.A.R conference.)