Domestic & Sexual Violence report from Vera House
Remembering victims, and survivors' stories on Monday, as Vera House presented its 26th annual report to the community on domestic and sexual violence.
Silhouettes of victims who have not survived --- and their stories ---greeted attendees at Syracuse's Sky Armory. Katie Socci, the Auburn-area woman killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2011, among the new profiles today. Several of her family members were in attendance. Also for the first time, a man victim: Dale Schantz, the victim of domestic violence in Syracuse's Sedgwick neighborhood last year. And law enforcers in the audience were thanked for their effort in concluding a cold case, the death of Leslie Neulander. Her husband, a well-respected doctor, has been convicted of her death.
Three survivors told their sobering stories at the report: 'Tim' was sexually abused as a child, and told us that talking about it has actually helped him deal with the trauma, at the same time he educates. He says the more people know about abuse, the fewer places an abuser has to hide. And, Jolie told her story of sexual attack while she was in college, and its devastating effects on her college senior year. Her point: no friends or teachers reached out to help her, and it's up to us all to help people obviously in need.
Education is a big emphasis. 100 Black Men of Syracuse is one group involved in reaching out to men, sponsoring a once a month conversation on what constitutes domestic violence. (The next session starts January 24th, 6-7pm at the Southside Innovation Center on South Salina Street. Syracuse Strong Football is another example. CEO Leroy Collins points out that our sports, including football and basketball, demand that the athlete be aggressive. His program teaches how to turn it off.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, in attendance, told us the victim support services and education outreach programs that Vera House provides help in the criminal prosecution of violence and abuse cases.
The number of incidents is down slightly for 2014, compared to the year before: in Onondaga County there were 16,657 domestic violence-related calls to police agencies, about a thousand less. There were 2,279 arrests last year compared to 25-hundred the year before. And, one 'intimate partner' homicide in 2014 compared to 2 the year before.
Vera House executive Director Randi Bregman says they're making progress, and she really believes domestic violence can be wiped out...but it will take a commitment from all of us, not just law enforcers and support groups like hers.
Need more information? Vera House has a 24x7 phone line at 468-3260, or www.verahouse.org Every county has a domestic violence agency. If you're outside Onondaga County, call 211 to get connected.