Domestic Violence Victims Hide in The Shadows At Their Peril

domestic violence victims hide in shadows at their peril

Those familiar with the patterns of domestic violence are sadly not surprised that another victim resided in a tony Westchester town.

Forget the stereotypes.

Even in the Westchester’s most well-to-do corners, family violence plagues our neighbors, sisters and friends.

“Domestic violence knows no socio-economic boundaries. It can happen in the wealthiest families and in the most financially stressed,” said Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan, who is an active member of the North East Westchester Domestic Abuse Alliance (New DAA).

A horrific case in point: Successful tax attorney Julius “Jules” Riech is charged with fatally stabbing his wife, respected Scarsdale pediatrician Robin Goldman, during a domestic dispute on Wednesday.

In the last five years, 38 domestic violence victims from Scarsdale have sought help from Pleasantville-based nonprofit, Hope’s Door, said Executive Director CarlLa Horton. “And that doesn’t include the many Jane Does who don’t tell us their names or where they live.”

The nonprofit helped 44 victims from Pound Ridge, 79 from Bedford, 165 from Port Chester, and 365 from Ossining, where Hope’s Door has an office. Perhaps paradoxically, some of the towns with higher numbers are those with communities with “very active police forces” in domestic violence, she said.  “So much goes unreported.”

One in four women in the United States are victims of domestic violence, said Jennifer Ryan Safsel, Hope’s Door’s development director. “So there are going to be professionals. Socio-economically it doesn’t matter. Some people control their spouse by tracking their phones. Or people have been known to put tracking devices on cars.”

It’s ultimately about control. As White Plains-based nonprofit My Sister’s Place explains on its website, “Domestic violence is characterized by the misuse of power and control. It includes physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual, and economic abuse.”

Police have said they received no prior calls about domestic violence in the Lincoln Road home.

This does not surprise Chief Ryan. “Statistically there are nine significant incidents before a call to the police,” Ryan said.

Why they don’t report

Domestic violence victims fear reporting their abusers for myriad reasons.

Poor or financially dependent women may not report because they are afraid they will not be able to financially support themselves or their children if they leave their partners, said Horton, who noted that domestic violence also occurs among same-sex couples, though far less frequently.

For more affluent women, admitting the abuse, already a distressing prospect, may be complicated by the fear of not being believed by peers, Dr. Susan Weitzman, founder of the Weitzman Center, an advocacy organization that raises awareness about “upscale abuse” said in the Daily Beast.

Many fear damage to their social image or career.

“People don’t want to air their dirty laundry, especially if they have status within their community or profession,” Ryan said. “There’s a real stigma attached to coming out of shadows.”

Horton agreed. “This is the thing you desperately, desperately try to hide from everyone else. So that a murder came out of the blue is seldom, seldom the case.”

Those who do turn in their abusers often feel shamed into hiding.  “We have people who stop shopping in the community or going to church in the community once they report,” Ryan said. “We see it all the time.”

Ryan said accused abusers, some with power jobs and luxury homes, worry about their image too.

“Even the people we arrest — the first thing they ask us is, ‘Is this going in the paper?’ ”

Even after arrests, women may fear high-income husbands’ power in the courtroom where they can hire what Weitzman called “legal dream teams.”

Warning signs 

Friends or family of victims may notice “a change in work habits. They may be quieter, withdrawn. They might not go out as a couple any more or the kids may not be as involved in athletic events anymore. Or if you see bruises, they may try to explain it off,” Ryan said.

For a woman or teenager in a newer relationship who might be wondering about her beau, Horton says. “The number one warning sign is isolation. Someone who keeps you away from everybody else who could matter to you.”

Beyond that, evidence of controlling behavior is an indicator of trouble. Does he try to dictate “what you can wear, whether you can work or not, who you can see?”

Risk factors for murder

According to one national study out of Johns Hopkins, the top risk factor for murder in domestic violence situations is that the abuser owns a gun.

The second is that you have recently left or have announced serious intention to leave him.

“Everyone blames the victim,” said Ryan Safsel from Hope’s Door. “People say, ‘Why didn’t she leave?’ Leaving is absolutely the most dangerous time. That’s when 75 percent of murders occur.”

In 2003, Croton resident Debora Riggs Clancy, a mother of four, was stabbed to death in front of two of her four children by her husband, Peter. She had recently filed for an order of protection against him.

Experts urge victims to call help hotlines for guidance on how to leave and survive an abusive relationship.

Who to call

Hotlines for help

Hope’s Door: 888-438-8700.

My Sister’s Place:  800-298-7233 (SAFE)

Victim’s Assistance

Westchester Community Opportunity Program
Local hotline: 914-345-9111  or call  1-855-827-2255

Twitter: @ASKSanders


Pound Ridge Police Chief Lends Voice To Panel on Domestic Violence

Pound Ridge Police Chief Lends Voice To Panel On Domestic Violence

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. — A recent panel discussion organized by the Domestic Abuse Network of Northeastern Westchester (DANNEW) was held at the Pound Ridge Library. Among those speaking was Town Police Chief David Ryan, who presented a convincing case as to how this issue is more prevalent in a small community like ours than most people may think.

The 90-minute discussion was moderated by Nicole Malgarinos of DANNEW.

The panel included six dedicated professionals who compared their views on working with victims when providing assistance. Included on the panel were Chip Andrus, pastor of the South Salem Presbyterian Church and Kymberly McNair, associate minister of the Antioch Baptist Church of Bedford Hills. McNair is also a coordinator at My Sister’s Place, an advocacy service that provides emergency housing for victims of domestic abuse.

In many communities, clergy are usually considered first responders because they are usually the ones a victim will turn to for help.

Also part of the panel was a local resident who through her resilience, spoke of dealing with domestic abuse and how she was able to receive assistance from people trained to reach out to anyone experiencing an abusive situation. In acknowledging Ryan, this individual started out by saying “If not for him I would not be alive today.”

In explaining what she went through before receiving help, she continued “It’s like living a nightmare and then feeling like being dumped into an ocean and you don’t know if you’re swimming up or down but you’re swimming as hard as you can.”

One emphasis discussed by the panel was how some victims are reluctant to come forward to report a situation due to fears of retaliation by the person responsible for initiating the violence. Everyone on the panel agreed that the most important part of providing help is to first promote public awareness within the community.

Ryan also confirmed how it is also a huge challenge for law enforcement due to trust issues. “My officers understand they should not talk down to a victim about the incident that brought them into my office for help but to have a greater understanding of the psychological scars one goes through,” he said. He reiterated how a victim needs everything to be able to take that first step in trusting law enforcement.

All the panelists agreed the priority when dealing with a victim for the first time is to provide a level of comfort so they can trust the services being offered to them. The next issue that was discussed openly was how communities need to become more involved. Statistics are higher than many people think. Bringing awareness into a community will no doubt provide any victim of domestic abuse the willingness to reach out for the help they need.

For anyone who has been a victim of abuse, physical or verbal, domestic or outside of the home, you can have complete trust in the law enforcement community. As with Ryan, they are dedicated in providing help while maintaining the highest standard of trust in respecting one’s privacy when dealing with this situation. Ryan can be reached at the Pound Ridge Police Department at 914-764-4206.


Trumps Immigration Crackdown is Pushing Victims of Abuse Underground:Huffington Post :Melissa Jeltsen

POLITICS 05/31/2017 12:18 pm ET
Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Is Pushing Victims Of Abuse Underground
Immigrants who face sexual assault and domestic violence are avoiding police and dropping court cases, a new survey shows.
By Melissa Jeltsen

Undocumented victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are afraid of calling the police, a new survey finds.
The woman was calling because she was frightened.

Her partner had become emotionally and physically abusive after the birth of their son, she told an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

She had recorded his threats on her phone but was too scared to involve law enforcement. He was a U.S. citizen, she explained, while she had conditional permission to stay in the United States through former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. She didn’t want to be deported.

Her story is not an anomaly. Immigrants are increasingly reluctant to report domestic violence and sexual assault, citing fears of deportation under President Donald Trump, according to a survey released this month of 715 victim advocates and attorneys in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

In April, a coalition of national organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault conducted the “2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors” to get hard data on how the country’s changing immigration policies were affecting their clients. Nearly 80 percent of advocates reported that survivors had expressed concerns about contacting police. Forty-three percent of advocates said they had personally worked with a survivor who dropped a civil or criminal case because they were too scared to continue. Three-quarters of respondents reported that survivors were worried about going to court.

The survey’s findings offer even more evidence for what advocates and law enforcement leaders predicted: Trump’s immigration crackdown is driving undocumented victims of crime underground.

“Being subjected to domestic violence is scary and terrifying, but so is being detained and deported,” said Monica McLaughlin, deputy director of public policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “If folks are not comfortable asking for help and support in a crisis, it means they are isolated and even more vulnerable.”

In his first week as president, Trump signed two executive orders on immigration that empowered immigration agents, drastically broadened the scope who could be targeted for deportation and called on local law enforcement to take on a greater role in federal immigration enforcement. After Trump’s first 100 days were over, the results were clear: Immigration arrests were up nearly 40 percent.

It’s disheartening to see that there is now an even greater fear for victims and survivors to ask for help.
Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline
McLaughlin said that many victims were spooked after hearing about the case of an undocumented transgender woman who was arrested in a Texas courthouse while seeking a domestic violence protective order against her ex-boyfriend. “If the perception is that going to court is a dangerous thing, it’s going to change behavior,” she said. In practice, she said, that means fewer victims calling police, filing reports, and cooperating with authorities. And for the assailants, it means they can keep “abusing with impunity,” she said.

Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said many victims were calling in with anxiety about how to get assistance without endangering themselves. “There is so much fear already present in abusive relationships,” she said. “It’s disheartening to see that there is now an even greater fear for victims and survivors to ask for help.”

Abusers can capitalize on that fear, threatening to turn their partners over to immigration authorities if they report abuse. Last week, police arrested a Baltimore defense attorney on suspicion of trying to stop a rape victim from testifying. He allegedly said that she risked deportation by the Trump administration if she did so.

At least two police chiefs have warned that the current political climate is pushing undocumented victims of crime into the shadows. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck said reports of rape among the city’s Latino population have fallen 25 percent, compared to the same period last year. In Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo said rape reports by Latinos were down 42.8 percent from last year.

If victims are afraid to report, it undermines public safety for the whole community, said Rosie Hidalgo, Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network. “Compelling increased entanglement between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement will erode community policing efforts,” she said.

Good policing relies on trust, explained David Alan Sklansky, Stanford University professor and former federal prosecutor. “If victims of crimes don’t feel comfortable reporting the crime or cooperating with police in investigating the crime, it means the police can’t do their job,” he said. “You can’t keep a city safe when victims and witnesses don’t trust you.”


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


National Domestic Violence Hotline:Tips for Safely Reaching Out for Support

Blog – Latest News
Tips for Safely Reaching Out for Support

July 27, 2016/32 Comments/in Get Help Today /by Advocate
This post was written by advocate Lauren C.

Being in a relationship should not mean you lose your right to privacy or your right to talk to whomever you like. But in an abusive relationship, an abusive person may isolate their partner from sources of support. This is often done by checking their partner’s call log and text history or denying their partner the right to a phone.

Reaching out for support when you’re in an abusive relationship is scary, especially if there are barriers to having a safe phone. If you are having trouble finding a safe way to communicate with others for support, below are some options to consider:

Semi-Safe Phone: If you do have a phone that you use but you are concerned your partner sees your messages or call history, you could selectively delete texts and phone calls. Also, you could clear your search history on a smartphone so your abusive partner cannot see what websites you have visited. Additionally, if you have a family member or friend you trust, you can work out a plan with them where you decide on a code word that you’ll text them when you need help. When that person receives that message containing the code word, they’ll know to take some agreed upon action to help you, like calling the police or picking you up at a certain location.
Trusted Loved One or Neighbor: If you do not have access to a safe phone, there may be someone you trust who will let you use their phone to safely call for support.
Phone Not Connected to Service Provider: Sometimes an abusive partner will cut off their partner’s cell service. Even if the phone doesn’t have service to make general calls, it will call 911. Keeping it charged and near you will give you a way to call 911 in an emergency. If you have a smartphone, you may also be able to use the internet on the phone by connecting to wifi. If your home doesn’t have wifi, going to your local library, community center or coffee shop could be a way for you to reach out for support online.
Internet: There are services such as Google Voice (only available in the U.S.) or Skype that allow you to call someone via the internet. Keep in mind that Google Voice doesn’t work for all 1-800 numbers, but Skype is able to connect with most of them. Facebook also allows you to call other users you are friends with using wifi.
Secret Phone: If it is safe for you to do so, consider getting a phone your abusive partner doesn’t know about. You could keep it at work, with a trusted friend or family member, or in another safe place your partner won’t have access to. There are affordable pay-as-you-go phones which you could purchase and add minutes to when you need them. Another option is Verizon Hopeline, which provides free, refurbished cell phones to survivors through local domestic abuse centers. Safelink is also an option for low-income individuals to receive free phones and minutes.
Community Phones: Local community centers and libraries may have pay phones or public phones you can use. If you live in an apartment complex with a business center, it may offer you a safe way to reach out. Online searches can help you locate pay phones in your area as well.
When you feel safe and ready to reach out for help, don’t forget that Hotline advocates are here to support you 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat live here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

Safety In Court:

After you have left an abusive relationship, there may be many occasions where you will have to see the abuser in court to deal with a protection order, custody, child support, divorce, or criminal proceedings. Since you are in a courthouse surrounded by people and even court officers, you may feel like it is okay to let your guard down. However, please remember that any time you come into contact with the abuser, you have to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some tips to help keep you as safe as possible.

Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can’t guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer. However, it is important that you create a safety plan that is right for you. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger. You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.

Try to get to court at a different time than you think the abuser will arrive to avoid seeing him/her on the street or in line to enter the court. If the abuser is always late, try arriving early. If the abuser always arrives early, try arriving closer to your hearing time or come with a friend. Remember: make sure to leave plenty of time to get through the lines, metal detectors, etc., so that you get to the hearing on time. If you are late, the case may be called without you and dismissed. Finding a domestic violence advocate to go with you can really help with safety. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to find help near you. You can also find a list of domestic violence organizations in your area in our State and Local Programs section.
See if your police department or sheriff’s department will take you to the courthouse. Meet them somewhere other than the courthouse and then ask the officer to walk you inside. Have the officer wait with you until you find the bailiff or courthouse security and let them know your situation. Try to sit near the court officers or security guards if you can.
Bring a friend or family member with you so you won’t have to be alone at all during the day.

If your friend or family member cannot spend the day in court with you, ask that person to drive you to court. It’s best to get someone whose car the abuser doesn’t know. Ask him/her to drop you off at the courthouse entrance so you don’t have to walk alone through the parking lot.

If you have to drive yourself to court and you are worried that the abuser will find your car and wait for you there when court is over, try to use a car the abuser will not recognize. If you can, you may want to borrow or rent a car that the abuser won’t recognize.

Stay together with whoever came with you while inside the courthouse. Ask your friend/family member to keep an eye on the surroundings and pay attention to safety considerations. If you need to use the bathroom and it has a lot of stalls, ask your friend/family member to come into the bathroom with you. If your friend/family member is unable to come into the bathroom with you, ask him/her to wait outside the bathroom for you.
Find someone who knows the courthouse well, like a domestic violence advocate or someone who works at the courthouse. Ask them about safe places you can sit where you will be close to courthouse security but where you will still hear your name called when they call your case. Ask them where all the exits are, in case you have to leave in a hurry. Besides the main exit, there may be exits through the courtrooms, side exits, or fire exits that you could use in an emergency.
Ask the bailiff or courthouse security to keep the abuser away from you. Let the bailiff or courthouse security know if the abuser sits near you or tries to harass you. If you have a restraining order, remember that the order is still in effect while you are in the courthouse. If the abuser violates the order while in the waiting room or in line at the courthouse entrance, you can report it to a court officer or call the police.

At the end of your hearing, ask the judge or the court officer/bailiff to “detain” the abuser. In other words, to hold him/her until you can leave.
If the judge or court officer won’t detain the abuser, think about letting the abuser leave the courthouse first, then wait a long time before leaving and try to leave out of a different exit than the main exit. However, even if you wait a long time, be aware that the abuser could still be out there waiting for you so be observant.
Have a police officer or sheriff walk out of the courthouse with you and walk you to your car if possible.
Have a friend pick you up at the exit or if you had a friend/family member come with you, make sure that s/he walks to your car with you.

Guns and Domestic Violence are a deadly Combination:NNEDV

Guns and Domestic Violence are a Deadly Combination
APRIL 12, 2017
Lethal school shooting leaves three dead in San Bernardino County

On Monday afternoon, known domestic violence offender Cedric Anderson reportedly opened fire in an elementary school. Police are now referring to this crime as a “murder-suicide” – a term which fails to acknowledge the deadly consequences of domestic violence and the wider impacts in this case: one dead child and one child seriously injured. Abusers often make specific threats to harm their victims, and those threats are frequently not taken seriously.

Domestic violence is about the abuser exercising power and control over the victim. Even after a victim breaks free from an abuser, she is not immediately safe. Abusers are often deadliest when victims try to leave or have recently fled the abuse. One-fifth of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of obtaining the order, and one third are murdered within the first month. After leaving an abuser, victims must continue to make specific plans for their safety, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

“Even for victims who leave, their safety isn’t automatically secured,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). “Although it is counter-intuitive, sometimes not leaving is the safest thing to do at a given moment. One of the most critical services provided by local domestic abuse programs is safety planning with the victim – preparing and leaving in a way that poses the least risk.”

Guns and domestic violence are a deadly combination. The mere presence of a gun increases the risk of domestic violence homicide by 500 percent. In 2014, more female homicide victims were killed with a firearm than with all other weapons combined.

“Abusers’ access to firearms is a serious concern for victims of domestic violence and their communities,” continued Gandy. “We see time and again that when domestic violence isn’t taken seriously, abusers go on killing sprees that leave their victims dead and sometimes many others dead or seriously wounded in the lethal collateral damage. We need to hold domestic violence offenders accountable – before the death toll begins.”

NNEDV supports common sense firearms proposals that would reduce perpetrators’ access to firearms, including expanding the law to prohibit stalkers and abusive dating partners from possessing firearms; requiring firearms removal at the time temporary orders of protection are granted; and improvements to the criminal background check system. Additionally, NNEDV urges lawmakers to increase resources for emergency shelter, housing, legal remedies, economic opportunities for survivors, and training for first responders.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance:Defending Strong Gun Laws

Dear Friends,

Across the country, strong gun laws are under attack. Legislation is currently pending in the U.S. House and Senate that would require every state – including New York – to let people from states with weak gun laws carry concealed firearms while they are visiting. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA) would make any permit to carry concealed weapons valid everywhere, regardless of where that permit was issued. In twelve states, you don’t even have to have a permit or any training to carry a concealed weapon. Residents of those states would be free to bring concealed weapons to any city or state they may choose.

We will fight the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act in the halls of Congress, and if necessary we will fight it in the courts.

Last week, I was joined by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and law enforcement leaders from across the country following the conclusion of the fifth national summit of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, the nonpartisan coalition I co-founded. We gathered prosecutors, police, and lawmakers from red states and blue states, jurisdictions large and small, to speak out against the CCRA. Representatives from Michigan, Alabama, Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon, Tennessee, and Illinois, all joined us at the press conference, which you can watch here.