Two Bronx city councilmembers joined on Thursday, October 16 to announce a new local initiative to combat domestic violence at the Thorpe Family Residences, supportive housing run by Nazareth Housing.
Councilmembers Ritchie Torres and Vanessa Gibson, whose districts 15 and 16 cover much of the central Bronx, presented their new program, the Roundtable on Domestic Violence.
The roundtable will bring together more than a dozen organizations and individuals that provide services in the Bronx throughout the year to develop and implement a strategy for reducing domestic violence. The initiative also aims to bring domestic violence out of the shadows, and connect survivors to local resources through targeted outreach, education, prevention and supportive services.
Joined by Councilman Andy King, district 12, for the occasion, the councilmembers also touted the recent increase in City Council funds for domestic violence programs, from $4.25 million last year to almost $6 million this year.
Domestic violence is a pervasive problem that must be addressed, said Torres at the press conference.
“We need to get it out of our heads that it’s a private matter,” said Torres. “It’s a public crisis.”
Gibson said the issue goes beyond the traditional concept of male to female domestic violence and includes senior abuse and abuse within the LGBT community. She urged community groups and organizations to come together and find new approaches and techniques to address the problems and end the cycle.
“It tears away at the heart of the community and family,” she said.
During the press conference, two domestic violence survivors shared their stories.
Shantay Bryan described how her abuser would control her, say cruel things, and intimidate her and her children.
“My abuser made me feel like I was worthless,” said Bryan.
But she was afraid to tell her family, or anyone else, for a long time because she would just be lectured about the bad relationship choices she had made.
“Many victims feel the lack of support to positively alter their situation,” said Bryan. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Lisa Hamner told the group how she was raped and beaten in her own home, but could not leave because she was economically controlled, never seeing a cent of the salary from her well-paying job. She finally started calling 911 after her daughter was born, and thought that when she sought help she would receive the housing and legal support she desperately needed.
Instead she spent a year and a half at a shelter for domestic violence survivors, before being forced to live in a homeless shelter. She’s encountered problem after problem while trying to receive benefits from the Human Resources Administration over the past eight years.
“Things are broken within HRA,” said Hamner.
Hamner wants people to know her struggles are not an isolated problem.
“It can happen to anybody,” she said.