OCO’s SAF program highlights need for trauma-informed services and access to housing

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow, joined by members of the Oswego City Police Department, presents representatives from Oswego County Opportunities’ (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) program with a proclamation designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in city of Oswego. Pictured from left are SAF Advocate Jake West, Mayor Barlow, SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France, Police Chief Tory DeCaire, Sgt. James Sherwin and Deputy Police Chief Zachary Misztal.

OSWEGO – Each year, domestic violence affects thousands of New Yorkers without regard to age, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, or immigration status. Domestic violence causes significant suffering for adults and children, while negatively impacting the communities in which they reside. Estimates from the National Network to End Domestic Violence show that 20 people suffer abuse at the hands of an intimate partner or family member every minute. And every year, 5 million children witness that abuse.

Oswego County Opportunities’ (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) Program is Oswego County’s domestic violence and rape crisis program. For over 40 years, SAF has been providing advocacy, support, and emergency housing to victims and survivors. Last year, SAF served more than 600 victims and survivors and answered more than 6,000 calls from those victims and survivors on their 24 hour Crisis Hotline. As communities recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, they are reminded of the link between personal safety and economic security for victims of domestic violence. For many victims, concerns about their ability to provide for themselves and their children are a significant reason for staying in, or returning to, an abusive relationship.

Housing is central for stability, and having access to a safe home is central to a survivor’s long-term success. Yet one of the greatest unmet needs of survivors is lack of housing, which puts them and their children at great risk.

“SAF’s domestic violence shelter provided more than 2,300 bed nights to victims and their children in 2018,” said OCO Crisis & Development Services Director Cristy King. “However, 90% of victims exiting SAF’s domestic violence shelter lacked the financial resources for a security deposit. 72% of women reported having limited or no income, and 98% fell below 200% of the poverty level. It is no wonder that domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in this state.”

Access to resources that increase economic stability, and access to supportive, victim-sensitive, and trauma-informed providers are essential in rebuilding a life after abuse. Therefore, SAF is using this awareness month as an opportunity to collaborate with several community partners on trainings that will increase their understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, services available, and how to support victims and survivors.

“As a result of increased awareness and national conversations regarding domestic and sexual violence, more victims and survivors are seeking assistance,” said SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France. “We as a community must do everything we can to support and believe these courageous survivors.”

In addition to offering trainings to several community partners, such as the Oswego County Health Department, the Oswego County Department of Social Services, and the Family Resource Center, SAF will have their annual “Silent witness and Survivor Flag Display” at various locations, including along the Oswego River in the city of Oswego and on the SUNY Oswego Campus. The red figures in the display represent individuals who have lost their lives at the hands of an abuser and those that suffer in silence. The purple flags represent the more than 600 victims and survivors SAF served in 2018.

As part of New York state’s Shine the Light campaign, the exterior of Oswego City Hall, the Oswego River Dam, and the exterior signage at the main entrance to SUNY Oswego’s campus will be lit purple during the month of October. SAF’s local Shine the Light campaign will connect communities with others across the state by turning New York purple – the symbolic color of domestic violence awareness. “Our hope is that when people see these displays or see the purple lights, it will generate conversations and help them recognize that these issues touch so many lives,” said France.

Additionally, local law enforcement agencies will have purple ribbon decals on their patrol vehicles to show their support in ending domestic violence. Finally, community members are invited to take part in National Wear Purple Day on Thursday, Oct. 24. Wear something purple and post pictures on social media using the hashtags -OswegoWearsPurple, -WearPurpleNYS, and -PurpleThursday and help flood social media with purple.

“Domestic violence thrives when we are silent,” said France. “These training initiatives and awareness campaigns show our commitment to supporting and believing survivors in our community, and holding abusers accountable.”

If a person or someone they know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking, or elder abuse, call the Crisis Hotline at 315-342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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