VIDEO: Wyckoff Hospital hosts panel on sexual violence
Representatives of various institutions met last Wednesday at Wyckoff Hospital to talk about sexual violence in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“Real Talk: A Conference on Sexual Assault” was hosted by the hospital’s Violence Intervention and Treatment program that advocates for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez opened the conversation emphasizing the work she has done with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), making it an inclusive program and putting more resources into it.
“We worked so hard and fought back against an attempt by the Republicans to not reauthorize VAWA … Just because they wanted to score political points,” Velazquez said.
A group of five panelists from a variety of organizations led the conference. They agreed that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have helped empower victims and bring them out from the shadows.
“These things are not happening today, these things happened when we’re younger,” said Sergeant Joseph Alohan from NYPD’s Domestic Violence Unit. “It’s a good thing that they’re coming out because by coming out we are able to then stop the offender for re-offending other people.”
However, the experts also said that there are people that are still underrepresented, like immigrants and the LGBTQ community.
Antonia Clemente, executive director and co-founder of the grass-roots organization Healing Center, said that one of the challenges organizations face is that “immigrant women are not coming forward. They’re still very silent even with the Me Too movement.”
One of the main reasons for immigrant women to remain in the shadows of violence is the fear of deportation, especially in the current administration, Clemente said.
The panelists also said the best way to help victims and survivors who are looking for support is to believe them, educate them about what their rights and legal options are and create safe spaces where they don’t have to be afraid.
Nevertheless, Anna Maria Diamanti, director of Family Law and Domestic Violence at Brooklyn Legal Services, explained that many times there are victims with language, cultural or even physical barriers that are not willing to go for help. Because of this, it’s important for the institutions to be able to go to them, she said.
The conference stressed that this is a great time to take action on sexual violence but underscored that the conversation should include all members of society, including the perpetrators.
“Prevention doesn’t just look like me reaching out to survivors but it also looks like us reaching out to folks who also cause harm,” said K. Richardson, sexual violence specialist at NYC Anti-Violence Project.
“There are far too little organizations or programs out there for offenders,” Alohan said. “If we only help one side, we’re never gonna fix the whole path.”
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