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$750,000 domestic violence grant announced for Monroe County

Louise Slaughter displaying a 1900s clock, destined for the new Rochester train station.

Louise Slaughter displaying a 1900s clock, destined for the new Rochester train station.

As a means to implement the Violence Against Women Act locally, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Perinton, announced a $750,000 federal grant intended to combat domestic violence in Monroe County.

The funding will be disbursed to Willow Domestic Violence Center, Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Monroe County Probation, Rochester Police Department Domestic Abuse Response Team, RPD Victim’s Assistance, the Rochester/Monroe Domestic Violence Consortium, and RESTORE Sexual Assault Services, with hopes of tackling every facet of domestic violence, from dating to law enforcement handling of domestic violence issues.

Codified in 1994 under President Bill Clinton and co-authored by Slaughter, the Violence Against Women Act increased pre-trial penalties for alleged perpetrators of domestic violence, opened civil avenues for unprosecuted abusers and added $1.6 billion in total toward investigation and persecution of domestic abuse cases.

Renewed consistently until 2012, when conservative congress members halted reinstatement due to provisions which would provide the same protections to same-sex couples, the bill was ultimately again renewed in 2013. The 2013 reinstatement also saw protections added for immigrants and Native Americans.

According to the Bureau of Justice and FBI uniform crime data, between the Act’s passing and 2010, cases of domestic violence nationwide dropped by a rate of approximately 67 percent.

“Helping write the Violence Against Women Act is among my proudest accomplishments in Congress. Twenty-three years later, this law is continuing to reduce the number of cases of domestic violence and bring survivors out of the shadows,” Slaughter said, in a statement. “I’m proud to announce this major award for Monroe County so it can continue working with local partners and keep professionals on the job who are providing important legal resources and counseling services to survivors across our community.”

For smaller agencies such as Willow, the impact of this new funding has the potential to be revelatory.

“This funding will save lives,” said Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of Willow, in a statement. “This federal grant supports the essential backbone of services for survivors — from direct services to supporting the 50+ members of the Rochester/Monroe County Domestic Violence Consortium. Today is a good day, as we can rest assured there will be no disruption to the critical life-saving services for domestic violence survivors in our community. We are grateful to our partners in government for recognizing the importance and the significance to help so many.”

According to Willow’s 2016 report, the presence of domestic violence in Monroe County calls for more hands-on action. Specifically, 2015 saw 4,804 reports of domestic violence, a 2 percent increase from 2014. At 64 per 10,000 residents, the rate of domestic violence incidents is 50 percent higher than the state average. In total, 48,908 domestic violence calls were made to police in 2015 throughout Monroe County.

This funding will support eight jobs, as well as provide resources and advocacy for 2,400 victims in the County. Additionally, the funding guarantees 450 high-risk cases will be followed by the Rochester Police Department’s Domestic Abuse Response Team, along with providing legal assistance for 375 victims by way of Orders of Protection through the Legal Aid Society.

“This multi-disciplinary approach will address victim safety through advocacy and services and improves law enforcement response to domestic violence,” said Carla Palumbo, president and CEO of the Legal Aid Society of Rochester. “It is an ideal example of a public and private partnership designed to provide a coordinated response to domestic violence.”

The Violence Against Women Act will celebrate its 23rd birthday in October, in tandem with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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