Raising the Bar: Domestic Violence

August 4, 2019

Statistics show that in the United States, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. About 25% of women and roughly 11% of men experience physical violence which could later caught post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many cases, domestic violence can lead to rape, stalking, and even homicide.

Raising the Bar hosts Jason Clark, President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and Attorney Adeola Adejobi are joined by Doralyn De Dios, President-Elect of the Dominican Bar Association, and Shibinsky Payne, Director of Victim Services Unit at Kings County District Attorney’s Office to discuss Domestic Violence.

Aired Sunday, August 4th, 2019.


DISCLAIMER:  Please be advised that this transcription was done from an audio recording by an out of house service; therefore the accuracy of the transcript may be impacted.  If there is an issue please contact MNN info@mnn.org

Adeola Adejobi: Hello and welcome to Raising the Bar with the MBBA. I'm your co-host Adeola Adejobi.

Jason Clark: And I'm Jason Clark, President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. For those of you who aren't familiar with our organization, the MBBA is the largest association of predominantly African American attorneys in New York. Our mission is to advance equality in pursuit of justice, assist in the professional development of our members and address legal issues affecting New Yorkers.

Adeola Adejobi: The goal of Raising the Bar with the MBBA is to foster a substantive conversation about justice issues in our community and to try to identify a couple of solutions in the process.

Jason Clark: Today we're going to talk about domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

Adeola Adejobi: Joining us today are Shibinsky Payne, the Director of Victim Services Units of the Kings County District Attorney's Office, and president elect of the Dominican Bar Association, Attorney Doralyn De Dios. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Shibinsky Payne: Thank you.

Doralyn De Dios: Thank you for having us.

Jason Clark: It's great, we've done a few of these programs this far and we're really excited about this particular program because I think it's something that affects so many communities and so many individuals. Even before we got started here, I started to try to re-research some of the things that are going on when it comes to domestic violence and I remember reading that one in four women and one in seven men will experience severe physical violence at least one point in their lives by an intimate partner.

And today, we just want to be able to talk about them, figure out what resources are available to folks. So maybe the best way to start is if we could just talk about, what domestic violence, what is intimate partner violence, and what can we do about it?

Doralyn De Dios: Sure. So domestic violence is basically the willful intimidation, physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse perpetrated by one intimate party against the other. It is extremely prevalent and I would say under prosecuted, I believe that it is one of the highest type of crimes that exist and it doesn't matter what's your background, you can come from any socioeconomic status, gender, religion, nationality, it happens amongst everyone.

Jason Clark: What are some ways that are people starting to combat domestic violence?

Doralyn De Dios: Well, I guess now people are just really standing up for themselves and are willing to prosecute and be part of the whole prosecution process. Call hotlines, seek out counseling, go to Victim Services Unit, Family Justice Centers, speak to someone, and I believe that that has really been a game changer. A lot of the culture has changed around domestic violence and how we're not living in this misogynistic and gender subordination culture anymore.

So people are actually realizing that this exists, this is real, and it's not okay to... And the reason why I'm saying this is because, it's fair to say that more above 80% of our cases are women victims. So people are just changing their mindset and that has definitely made a difference which -

Shibinsky Payne: And there's a lot of resources now available in New York City. The mayor's office has really been very supportive with regard to implementing services in all five boroughs. There are Domestic Violence Centers, or Family Justice Centers rather, that have a wide variety of services and providers from all over the city. So within the DA's office, specifically the Kings County DA's Office, the Domestic Violence Unit and the Family Justice Center are very close proximity.

It does make it very easy for someone to come in and seek services even if they're not going through with the criminal justice process and they want services tailored to them.

Adeola Adejobi: Yeah, and as we're talking about some of the solutions around domestic violence, considering that the numbers are so high, from your experience, what are some of the reasons why people are afraid to do something about it or speak out if it's happening to them or happening to someone they know or in their family?

Shibinsky Payne: I think it's very individualized and I think a lot of the times, they're very interesting circumstances around why you wouldn't want to report or why it might be difficult to report. A lot of the times we focus on safety. Sometimes, someone's safety might look very different from another person, so we really try to focus on what they would like to see happen, having some autonomy with what their future will look like. And so I think connecting them with services that would allow for them to have a choice really, really helps them move forward.

Doralyn De Dios: And if I can add, I know one of the main factors for victims not to move forward or just report it, is because of fear. There's this power and control dynamic with the abuser, and also shame and religious reasons and your culture. So there's a lot of different factors that affect the whole process.

Shibinsky Payne: And oftentimes there might be situations that, like immigration status, someone might fear that if they do report that there would be a negative consequence. So sometimes that might be one of the reasons why they wouldn't want to go forward.

Jason Clark: It's interesting, as you mention having your immigration status, what are some of the protections that are available? So let's say I'm someone who's an undocumented individual and I am being the victim of some type of intimate partner violence, what resources are available? Like what should I do and what should I not worry about?

Shibinsky Payne: Well, at the Kings County DA's Office, in our Victim Services Unit, we have a multilingual staff. So that really helps being able to service victims in the language that they are comfortable speaking, and we assure them that there is no discrimination with regard to seeking services within our office. The services that are made available don't require them to report their immigration status to any degree, and they're not excluded because of their immigration status within our office.

Doralyn De Dios: And also there are services like through the Family Justice Center where they connect you with an immigration attorney, we also help with the visa application for victims as well.

Adeola Adejobi: Yeah. So are there certain communities or races that are generally more prone to having domestic violence happen in their communities?

Shibinsky Payne: I don't feel that it discriminates at all. The population that we serve at the DA's office varies, I don't think it definitely speaks to how Brooklyn looks, but I would say that, within our program we focus on high risk populations and some of those are folks that have English as their second language and they are seeking services sometimes very fearfully because they can't communicate. And so we offer a wide variety of services, we have Haitian Creole, we have Russians, Spanish, Polish. So our staff is very well equipped to be able to bring in marginalized communities that normally don't report.

Doralyn De Dios: I agree with Shibinsky, but as I mentioned before, this type of crime is prevalent amongst all demographics. And if you mind if I read some percentages amongst different races, so in the Native American community, 51.7% of women and 43% of men have experienced domestic violence, and the reason why they don't come forward typically is because this culture in particular, places a lot of importance on having a unified community and they feel threatened if they do report it.

In the African American community, 41.2% of women and 36.3% of men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, and 17.4% of the women have experienced sexual violence. And in the African American community, in addition to obviously valuing your community ties and your familial ties, African Americans rightfully so are suspicious of the justice system. So it's really hard for a man or woman to come forward because they don't trust that the justice system will believe in what they're saying. They don't want to report one of their own, etc.

In the Hispanic community, 29.7% of women have experienced domestic violence and 27.1% of men have experienced domestic violence. This community in particular as Shibinsky mentioned, is the least likely to report because of the language barrier, because of that immigration status and their fear of getting deported.

And in the LGBTQIA community, 15.8% have experienced physical violence. And again this community is also fearful because they've always been through so much scrutiny and criticism and they don't want to feel like they haven't been heard or believed.

Adeola Adejobi: Yeah. Can you talk about... I mean you talked about some of the protections, but I think when we're talking about the fear it's also like retaliation if you will, like the person finding out that that person reported. What are some of the protections that are in place to protect that person after like how... Because I think the main thing people would be afraid of is, okay they went and talked to this group, whatever, how are they sure that this person is not going to find out?

Shibinsky Payne: Well, it depends on how it is reported. I do want to stress that our office works with the Brooklyn Family Justice Center and you don't have to have a criminal case to seek services. So I think educating the community, which is part of the role of Victim Services Unit as well, is having individuals in the community know that there are other options. Because likely when you do report and someone is arrested, they will likely know who reported that.

But there are options, and one of the main things that our counselors focus on in our unit is, autonomy. We really want to make sure that their choices are respected and that if they want to move forward on their case or if they don't, that there's no judgment and there's resources available.

Jason Clark: I know a question that I feel is posted a lot is, let's say that, or maybe I'm not into the relationship or what have you, when I'm personally seeing domestic violence or an intimate partner, but let's say I know someone else, like let's say there's someone who lives in the same apartment building with me, let's say there's a family member who I feel very strongly that is being abused in some types of ways. What can I do to try to reduce that or does it really just have to come from one of those individuals?

Shibinsky Payne: No, I think that it's important that communities be aware and that you support each other. I think one of the things that is really important is that you can start the conversation. I think it's oftentimes because this is in the dark and in homes that there's a certain level of fear about bringing up the topic, but I think starting the conversation is very important and making time for someone who is being victimized is really helpful.

It's important to listen and not be judgmental, provide reassurances that this is not their fault, and really come from a place of not judging the situation and being able to provide emotional support during that process. If you are aware of an active instance of violence, you should definitely call 911. I think that there are ways that you can support somebody, with education, with information, with resources and with time, but if it's a dangerous situation then definitely call 911.

Jason Clark: But if a case is... I know that obviously every situation is different, if someone is actually going to start a criminal case, I would either have to come from the victim themselves or would it have to... Could that also be started just by the proper ADA?

Doralyn De Dios: No, the case would have to start from the victims reporting it. Obviously if there's an eye witness, they can call the police, and we can use the eyewitness to corroborate any sort of evidence that the law enforcement gathers, but who would be initiating the case would be the victims.

Shibinsky Payne: When cases come into the office, we often speak to the victims and we want to find out what they want to see happen, and we support them whether or not they want to move forward with the case or if they don't, and that's why it's important to let everyone know that there are other options if the criminal justice process is not the way to go right now.

Jason Clark: [crosstalk 00:14:27]. Okay.

Adeola Adejobi: And so I'm wondering, earlier you talked about just overall in society, misogyny, patriarchy, things like that, when did domestic violence officially become a crime?

Doralyn De Dios: I believe it was in the 1970s when they started after the Battered Women's Movement. They started recognizing this as an actual crime and there was no shame for women reporting this, and they've really tried to stay away from that gender subordination argument. So I believe it was around that time.

Jason Clark: That's interesting that you mentioned that it's usually, the onus is usually on the victim to actually start or commence a domestic violence action against someone. And I think that what some folks would say is that, given that the victim is again the victim and there may be reasons why they may not want to move forward with the case, if you want to stop the violence, maybe it would be better if someone else brought that case. Can you talk a little bit as to why it has to be the victim or if there are other circumstances where someone else may able to, like another prosecutor, may be able to bring a case?

Doralyn De Dios: Sure. So the main issue is that we wouldn't know about the violence without the victim, so a witness they can report the incident, but we would have to then interview the victim, see what actually happened. If we can't gather enough evidence, then there can't be an arrest made. If a victim does go forward however, and then decides that they do not want to proceed with the prosecution of the case, it is our responsibility to continue the investigation and do what's called an evidence-based prosecution.

This would happen with or without the victim's testimony and this, to be frank, is a large portion of a prosecutor's caseload because a lot of victims do not want to go forward. And that's where we have a fine line because our obligations tend to conflict with the victim's interests. Domestic violence victims are very different from other victims of other types of crimes because those types of victims want restitution, they want justice. But our victim just want the abuser to stop without necessarily having them been prosecuted.

So it's very challenging as a prosecutor to actually go forward with cases where we don't count with the victim's testimony. So with evidence-based prosecutions, we have to gather all of this other corroborating evidence to make up our case, and we also have to ask the victim whether they're willing to testify, although they're not going forward with it. And if we do have enough evidence to prove our standard beyond a reasonable doubt, then we have to go forward with the case, but if we don't, unfortunately, we'll have to dismiss it.

Jason Clark: What type of evidence? When you're saying evidence, do you usually [crosstalk 00:17:34] -

Doralyn De Dios: Yes, like 911 calls, eye witnesses, medical records, et cetera.

Jason Clark: I imagine... Another question I think I usually hear posed is, someone says that someone's been in an abusive relationship and they either keep going back that abuser or it keeps going on and they decide not to... Maybe Shibinsky if you could talk a little bit about some of the reasons why someone may decide to stay, and why it may not just be as easy as someone just saying, "I'm going to do something about it."

Shibinsky Payne: Well, it's an individual choice. In intimate partner violence that relationship might span years and years and there may be other things that are happening within the dynamics of the relationship that don't make it easy for someone to leave right away. I think that's why it's important to know about the resources available, how they can plan for their safety if they do decide to stay, and help them get some counseling or other supportive services to continue on their journey. And we like to make sure that we're talking about their choices and safety as number one, the number one issues, when interacting with the victims.

Doralyn De Dios: Yeah, a lot of domestic violence victims and survivors, they're financially dependent to the abuser. So once they go to our office and learn that we have resources that we can help them with, housing, with getting a job, or any type of financial help, then that really changes things and they're more willing to come forward.

Shibinsky Payne: And sharing that information with them is really vital. There's programs funded by New York State Office of Victim Services that provides victim compensation, and for a victim of domestic violence that could be moving expenses and other damaged property and medical bills. So educating the population on what's available and how they can apply, is really, really important for us to make sure that all the victims know what's available to them.

Adeola Adejobi: And as you were talking about what's available and knowing over the past decade or so, I would assume that the type of services and things have most likely increased for victims. Can you talk about what maybe some of those changes are or what over time people saw that victims really needed?

Shibinsky Payne: I think an expansion of services, I think especially with the mayor's office and city based services, they've expanded it to include all gender based violence, so that includes victims of trafficking as well. So there is an expansion of services available. Funding however, ebbs and flows, a lot of our funding comes from State and Local government. Federal funding is still up in the air at times, but there are services available and we're able to connect them based on grants and things like that that we apply for.

Jason Clark: Right, and actually this would probably be a good time to mention, that at least with the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, one of our partners for several years has been an organization known as Safe Horizon, which is a nonprofit that focuses on doing some of this work as well, making sure that folks who are financially dependent, for example, they do have some housing and they do have some compensation. And one thing actually they started doing, which I thought was really interesting is, it always stayed with me, it's like they said that many times some people won't leave either because they have children and it could be complicated moving to a different situation, but also if people have pets and they won't leave because they don't want something to happen to their pets. And I know at least with them, they provide some type of housing for that.

Is that something that you guys see or is it ever a part of why or the metric, in any type of way?

Shibinsky Payne: Pets are sometimes as as important as someone's child, and oftentimes abusers will use pets to control them. And so this shelter program is really great because it allows for victims who are fleeing to be able to bring their pets with them.

Doralyn De Dios: Again, there's just so many factors that can make a victim not want to go forward or stay in that situation. It's like Shibinsky said, it's very individualized, but again it's all based on that power and control that the abuser has over the domestic violence victim.

Shibinsky Payne: And the Family Justice Center, which is located right within our office, Safe Horizon is one of the community partners. So we're really able to get victims directly to the services that they need, and it's very individualized. There's so many community based organizations that are housing kind of like a one stop shop of services, and it really makes it very convenient and less intimidating to really find out what's going to be a good fit for you.

Adeola Adejobi: Is there some sort of hotline or number? Because I know, I'm sure there is, obviously I want you to tell us what that is because in a lot of these circumstances, particularly in an instance where the woman or the victim has a lack of resources, then the abuser pulls back on resources, making it harder for that person to be able to reach out to other people. So if you can give us any websites or phone numbers and things like that just so that the viewers know where they can find as much information as they can about how to get connected with the services.

Doralyn De Dios: Sure. There is a domestic violence hotline and that number is 1-800-621-HOPE, H-O-P-E. You can always visit your respective DA's office website. For Kings County it's, Brooklynda.org.

Shibinsky Payne: And for the Kings County Victim Services Unit, you can call (718) 250-3820, and 311 always has information available and they can connect you with services based on your location.

Adeola Adejobi: Okay.

Jason Clark: Great. In the last couple of minutes that we have, Doralyn, it's a two part question. First is, can you give us some examples of what constitutes abuse? Sometimes people don't know if something that happened qualifies as abuse [inaudible 00:24:12]. And then two, if you can kind of step us through what the process is and what type of results someone can have if they are the victim of domestic violence.

Doralyn De Dios: Sure. In terms of physical abuse, anything from shoving, pushing, slapping, punching, constitutes physical abuse. Stalking, which is the repeated pattern of unwanted behavior from one intimate partner towards the other is another type of abuse. Financial abuse when they're literally, like as you mentioned before, keeping you away from your finances just to like put that pressure and control over you is one type of abuse, emotional abuse. You can report all of these types of things.

If you do report it and then an arrest is made, the process is that that arrest goes through the DA's office. We determine whether the actual charge... what the actual charges are, and then for the Domestic Violence Bureau in particular, it goes straight to a domestic violence ADA. We immediately interview the victims and we talk to them about what has happened or their history, and we determine... Well, first the case comes in as a misdemeanor or a felony.

So once that's determined it goes to the respective ADA, and then we just start gathering evidence for the case. The outcome can vary really depending on the case. It just depends on the history, the criminal history, the allegations, the physical injuries if there were any, the evidence that we can gather. So it really depends on the outcome. Most of our victims just want protection, like an order of protection, which is guaranteed basically in every single one of our cases. The moment an abuser gets arrested, an order of protection is automatically issued for the victim.

Jason Clark: So... Because that actually goes to another quick question, because I think some people wonder, let's say you bring these charges against someone, are they going to get bail or are they going to be able to come back and maybe be able to do something? Is that something that usually occurs? And if... I mean, I know again, these are case by case basis, but even if not, I guess you're mentioning that there'll always be some type of restraining order.

Doralyn De Dios: Yes, there's always a restraining order. There's a lot of changes now with the bail reform laws in New York state. However, I don't really see those laws affecting domestic violence because of the severity of these types of cases. So a judge has to see what that history and the pattern has been, the injuries, everything that I mentioned before, to determine whether this person will get bail or be released on their own recognizance, and that's when the order of protection does kick in. That's when the services that Family Justice and Victim Services offers, whether that person has to be displaced to an emergency shelter, et cetera. We all work as a team, Family Justice System... Excuse me, Services Unit, law enforcement, and the DA's office.

Shibinsky Payne: So they're assessing risk throughout the process.

Adeola Adejobi: Right.

Jason Clark: Got it.

Adeola Adejobi: Okay. Well, that's all of our time. Thank you so much for all of that valuable information on this episode today, and we want to thank you for watching, Raising the Bar with the MBBA, on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

Jason Clark: See you next time.

About the Program

Raising the Bar with the MBBA

Co-hosts Jason Clark, President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA), Attorney Adeola Adejobi, and their guests discuss legal issues facing the African American community.

Tune in every Sunday at 7:30 pm MNN1 (FiOS 33, RCN 82, Spectrum 34 & 1995) and MNN HD (Spectrum 1993). Streams...

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