In an effort to further combat domestic violence across the borough, Congresswoman Nita Lowey has helped to secure $578,000 in federal grants from the Department of Justice.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office, as many as 25 percent of all women visiting city hospital emergency rooms are there as the result of violence in the home.
In Queens, an estimated 12,000 complaints of domestic violence are filed every year—resulting in approximately 5,000 arrests.
Queens’ domestic violence initiative is a collaboration among Lowey, Brown and Borough President Claire Shulman.
The funding comes from the Violence Against Womens Act, enacted by Congress in 1994 and renewed last year.
Over the past seven years, VAWA has provided over $2.2 billion in grants, with an estimated $2.32 million going toward Queens.
“The D.A.’s office has more than doubled its conviction rate for domestic violence crimes in just three years,” Lowey said. “But, we must not rest until every Queens woman is safe and secure in her home, her workplace and her community. Our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends deserve no less.”
This year’s grant is the fourth in as many years for Queens.
In 1997, the borough received over $750,000 to enhance prosecutions through collaborations with the police, the judiciary and victim’s service providers.
An additional $1.5 million in funding provided over the past two years has helped to continue the initiatives as well as expand the district attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit to full bureau status to handle both felony and misdemeanor domestic violence prosecutions.
Brown explained that through the series of grants, Queens has established one of the more successful domestic violence programs in the nation.
“We have increased the number of trials, doubled our conviction rate, obtained jail sentences where appropriate, enhanced our ability to monitor defendants’ progress on court-mandated conditions, and added a significant number of support services to reduce the trauma often experienced by victims as they negotiate the criminal justice process,” Brown said.
Apart from their sheer numbers associated with domestic violence, Brown said the cases, by their very nature, demand special attention.
“Domestic violence prosecutions are unlike other prosecutions because they pose complex emotional and practical issues—oft-times involving young children who witness family violence and abuse—in addition to the legal issues that are present in other cases.”
The issue of domestic violence becomes even more complex, Brown explained, because, unlike to most cases of violent crimes, the victim not only knows the assailant, but lives under the same roof.
“Many women are afraid of retaliation,” the D.A. said when addressing the issue last year. “Many fear breaking up their families or losing their financial support or their homes. Many are afraid to proceed simply because they are unfamiliar with or intimidated by court procedures and the legal system.”
As a result, many victims of domestic violence become reluctant to follow through on complaints in court and the cases are often dismissed.
The borough president echoed the success of the borough-wide campaign to eliminate domestic violence.
“We have renewed resources to continue the battle against the horror of domestic violence,” Shulman said. “We have developed, implemented and managed programs that have worked effectively to prosecute offenders and provide services to victims. These programs and services provide greater protections and safety for women and children in harm’s way.”
Among the many concerns of battered women in deciding whether to leave a violent home is whether she will be able to support herself and her children, whether she will have a safe place to live and whether she can retain custody of her children.