Erie County receives federal grant to combat domestic violence
A three-year, $900,000 federal grant announced Thursday in downtown Buffalo will help Erie County form a comprehensive program to combat domestic violence that involves the District Attorney's office and two local not-for-profit agencies.
The formation of the county's Domestic Violence High Risk Team (HRT) was announced in the District Attorney's office. Acting DA Michael Flaherty was joined by numerous representatives from participating agencies.
In addition to a prosecutor and investigator within the DA's office, the High Risk Team will include a coordinator that will work at Child and Family Services' Haven House, as well as a Victim Advocate working at the International Institute of Buffalo.
"We specifically know that the foreign-born population tends to have a higher lethality rate than the U.S.-born population, for a number of reasons including lack of knowledge of what resources are available, lack of language access, fear of police due to experience that they've had in their home countries," said Amy Fleischauer, Director of Survivor Support Services at the International Institute.
According to New York State statistics, there were 29 homicides in Erie County between the years of 2010 and 2014 that stemmed from domestic violence. Advocates for domestic violence victims say the greatest danger comes when a victim takes the first steps to get out of an abusive situation.
"We know that when victims leave their abuser, they are at the greatest risk of homicide," said Laura Grube, coordinator at Haven House. "Those are the points of intervention that we provide support on. We provide shelter, safety, talk them through the system, let them know what's going to happen next and really help them make the decisions that are best for them."
Acting DA Flaherty thanked Congressmen Brian Higgins and Chris Collins for securing the federal grant and encouraged members of the general public to speak up when they feel they are observing a possible case of domestic violence.
"Sometimes we're just afraid. We're afraid to make that phone call. We're afraid to take that first step," Flaherty said. "It could be somebody at work. It could be somebody in the neighborhood. It could just be somebody you interact with. There are some times members of the community have to have the courage, really, to pick up the phone and say 'I think there's a problem here.'"