October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence affects individuals in every community regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, exploitative and often violent activities used by one person against another in order to establish and maintain power, control and dominance in a personal relationship.
Here in Cayuga County, as across the nation, domestic violence incidence reports are currently on the rise. This may indicate that more people are seeking services, perhaps due to a greater understanding of what community resources are available to help combat this crime, as well as an increased public understanding that the victim is indeed blameless.
On March 10, 1998, the Wellstone-Murray Family Violence Option was adopted and implemented in New York. This law provides for all applicants and recipients of cash assistance to be screened for domestic violence at the time of application and recertification, and anytime thereafter. In Cayuga County, this screening is provided through the Temporary Assistance Department.
A universal screening form is included in every cash assistance application and recertification packet. Any person who screens positive is referred to the agency’s domestic violence liaison. This year, 120 women have screened positive for domestic violence. The role of the liaison is to assess credibility and identify and discuss safety issues in domestic violence cases. The liaison will also make referrals to resources that may assist the victim, and assess the need for a temporary waiver from a variety of public assistance requirements that may pose a threat to their safety. The liaison also maintains pertinent lists of services available in Cayuga County from our community partners, and participates in regular meetings and other contacts to stay updated on what choices are available to assist someone out of a domestic violence situation.
Cayuga County Health & Human Services has two contracts with the Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency for domestic violence-related services. We fund case management and residential services.
The program the Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency runs is called the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. This program assists victims of domestic violence and their children to attain a life free of violence. Services include a 24-hour domestic violence hot line (1-800-253-3358), and safe, temporary shelter and advocacy with the police and courts. Safety planning assistance, referrals to other community agencies, supportive counseling, a support group, a children's group and educational presentations are also provided.
The program also coordinates the Cayuga County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which works toward a coordinated community response to domestic violence. It includes members from law enforcement, the district attorney's office, hospitals, schools, social services, drug and alcohol programs and concerned community members.
Anyone interested in inquiring about services for domestic violence in Cayuga County can call the Domestic Violence Intervention Program at 283-2030.