A recent study of domestic violence victims living in the Bronx shows that 55 percent of 140 victims surveyed couldn’t pay their rent and more than a quarter are living in shelters.
Results of the study were released at a symposium at Hostos Community College on Sept. 30, detailing victims’ legal and social service needs.
“Domestic violence impacts generations of families,” said Judge Llinet Rosado, a court lawyer who works with domestic violence victims and their batterers.
“As diverse as the Bronx is, we are very conservative when it comes to certain issues,” Rosado said, adding that more forums like the symposium are urgently needed, “particularly in the Bronx.”
Victims of domestic violence still grapple with numerous obstacles when they seek help, the Bronx Intimate Partner Violence Needs Assessment found. Many agencies require proof that abuse is happening, such as an order of protection or a police report, when victims apply for government assistance. But only 16 percent of those who participated in the survey responded that they had turned to the police for help. Over half of the participants reported experiencing emotional and verbal abuse, which is much harder to prove than physical violence.
Language and cultural barriers are also obstacles for many victims. Many local organizations take advantage of immigrants seeking assistance, charging high fees for quick and ineffective solutions.
“A big scam we’re seeing right now is how they promise to get someone a work permit, but what they’re really doing is an asylum application that ultimately gets someone in front of an immigration judge for deportation,” said Susanna Saul, managing attorney at Her Justice. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said they needed help with job placement and a quarter of them were undocumented, leaving them vulnerable to such scams.
The LGBTQ community struggles with the same barriers, but with fewer resources open to them, said SoJourner McCauley, a community services coordinator at Boom! Health who works with the trans population. Social service agencies try to help but lack understanding about the clients they are dealing with, said McCauley.
“The work that shelters do and the work that domestic violence programs do is off the chain. But they are gender-biased,” said McCauley. “They don’t understand the [trans] lifestyle. We’re so busy with dealing with direct populations, we don’t have time. There’s no money out there right now to train your staff on gender sensitivity or gender identity.”
The report found that many victims of domestic violence are unaware of the resources available to them. Only 19 percent said they had ever sought free legal or housing advice or counseling at the Family Justice Center on 198 East 161 Street.
City Council members will try to combat that problem by meeting constituents on Thursday, October 6 at subway stations and bus stops around the city to draw attention to domestic violence and inform the public about available resources. Councilman Rafael Salamanca’s office’s preliminary plans are to meet constituents at the Hunts Point Ave. 6 train station between 8 and 9 p.m. Vanessa L. Gibson will be at the 161 Street train D-train station at River Ave and East 161 St.