Sanctuary for the Abused
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Suppose you had 10 months to make a new life for yourself and your kids.
That's about how long people fleeing domestic violence in New York City get if they're lucky: 90 days of emergency housing with a possible 35-day extension, then another 180 possible days of subsidized housing.
Not a lot of time.
Still, victims who make their way to the Center Against Domestic Violence find a wealth of services aimed at helping them reestablish themselves.
"The pressure is that there is such a short time," said CADV Executive Director Judith Kahan. "There are many services in this emergency period that a person might need."
Some 300 families — more than 650 women and children and at least two fathers with kids in tow — availed themselves of CADV services last year, said Rona Solomon, CADV's deputy director.
Most were in desperate need.
"People are coming in who have just been battered," Solomon said. "They're recovering from emotional injuries and physical injuries. The goal is to move them from being in a crisis to where they can go on with their lives."
CADV was founded in 1977 as the Center for the Elimination of Violence in the Family, a joint effort of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, the Brooklyn YMCA and the New York City Mayor's Task Force on Rape. A year later, the center lobbied Albany legislators and became one of the first domestic programs in the country that allowed children to be housed with their parents and the first to provide day care within the shelter system.
CADV now operates three shelters in the city: Women's Survival Space and Women's Safe Start, both in Brooklyn, and Women's Second Start in Harlem.
Kahan is particularly proud of CADV's many training programs, including the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, or RAPP, now operating in 20 public high schools across the city, which helps teens recognize the warning signs of domestic violence.
It also offers date violence prevention training for teens, and has a pilot program, Speak Your Peace, that teaches teens healthy relationship skills.
CADV also offers counseling for adult abuse victims, onsite legal services on divorce, custody, immigration and other issues and crime-victim advocacy.
The average abuse victim in the city is a minority woman, about 28 years old, from an economically disadvantaged household. But Kahan said domestic abuse also occurs in middle- and upper-class households, where women may be more reluctant to report it for fear of losing their lifestyles.
The New York City Domestic Violence hotline receives about 150,000 calls a year.
CADV and the abuse victims it counsels have been deeply affected by the city's housing crunch.
Not only have surging rents made affordable housing difficult to find, cutbacks in federal Section 8 funds and a formula that steadily decreases housing subsidies over time put added pressure on women to build new lives in a hurry.
"A lot of what we do in emergency shelters is help people get their lives together: their paperwork lives, their emotional lives and their physical well-being," Solomon said.
"We only have this tiny timespan where we can load in a lot of things to help people move away from being victims to becoming survivors," she added.
You can reach CADV at its 24-hour, multilingual hotline at (718) 439-1000.