Tuesday marked 22 years since the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law.
The landmark act has provided funding for domestic violence prevention and prosecution, for victim services, for shelters and research (and despite the name, the act also covers male victims of domestic violence).
This dovetails with the topic of next week’s third annual Orange County Cares Healthcare Symposium: “Addressing Domestic Violence in Orange County.”
According to the grim tally that Safe Homes of Orange County keeps, since September of 2004, there have been 23 women killed by their husbands or intimate partners, plus one woman who’s missing and presumed dead.
One of the panelists will be Anna Gibbs, who’s been on the board of directors of Safe Homes of Orange County for three years. She’s also a survivor of domestic violence.
“Eighteen years ago, I left an abusive relationship,” Gibbs said. “I want to help people understand that what they probably think about domestic violence may not really be the truth. It can affect anyone, male or female. It can affect anyone from any economic class. It’s not really about violence. It’s about control and manipulation and fear.”
The county’s symposium will be held from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 23 at the Emergency Services Center on Wells Farm Road in Goshen. (RSVP to attend to Wendy Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org)
County Executive Steve Neuhaus, District Attorney David Hoovler, Safe Homes Executive Director Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier, Mental Health Commissioner Darcie Miller and Health Commissioner Eli Avila will speak briefly, and there will be a panel discussion featuring people and families directly affected by domestic violence.
David Adams, who in 1977 in Cambridge, Mass., cofounded the first counseling program in the U.S. for men who abuse women, is the keynote speaker.
Domestic violence has deep repercussions in the community. The most recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 27.3 percent of women and 11.5 percent of men have experienced physical violence, sexual violence or stalking at the hands of an intimate partner and suffered at least one negative impact such as fearfulness, missed work, post-traumatic stress disorder or the need for medical treatment or legal help.
Orange County is taking this seriously, and has put its money where its mouth is. When the state cut some of Safe Homes’ funding for child protection services a couple of years back, the county made up the difference.
Safe Homes, partnering with prosecutors and Newburgh city police, just won a $200,000 grant for a lethality assessment program.
We’ve made progress in the past 22 years, but not nearly enough. You can still turn on the TV or look at the internet and find stupid jokes and terrible, misinformed commentary and criticism whenever a domestic violence or sexual assault case gets media attention.
“I think we’re desensitized. I don’t think people realize what’s appropriate, what’s misogynistic,” Gibbs said. “It’s a long journey to really create awareness and advocacy and education.”
The work can be frustrating, and the change can be slow.
“If there’s one thing I can say to get someone to look at it differently,” Gibbs said, “then to me, we’re at least creating a drop in the bucket. And a couple of drops, and you start to fill the bucket.”
On Twitter @HeatherYakin845