Purple shirts, but no purple prose: Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson is directly addressing intimate partner violence all month long through her “31 Days of Action Against DV Awareness Campaign.” After all, October has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month since 1989. 

The theme of this year`s initiative is “breaking the silence,” with a month of events centered on bringing visibility to survivors of gender-based domestic violence, abuse, and intimate partner homicides, many of whom are women and women of color. 

“My fear is that it will continue to be an issue that we deal with in the shadows of darkness, unless we find strength in people to step up and realize that any given time, you could be a victim or know someone who is a victim,” said Gibson.

NYPD statistics show a nearly 59% increase in domestic violence offenders from 2021 to 2022. Furthermore, domestic, intimate partner, and other family homicides are more likely to occur in the Bronx compared to any other borough, she said. In 2022, the Bronx had the second-highest number of total domestic violence victims reported to the NYPD, with the 47th Precinct having the highest at 4,095 complaints. Because of these staggeringly high statistics, Gibson relaunched the Bronx`s Domestic Violence Advisory Council last year. 

Some of the events this month include a walk/run/roller-skating 5K, a spa day for survivors at Bronx Borough Hall, court services training, and meditation sessions. They also strive to provide culturally responsive and specific help in as many languages as possible.

“It’s so emotional when you hear the stories of these survivors, of how they literally escaped with their lives just to protect their children,” said Gibson. “We want DV survivors to know that they are not alone.”

Last Wednesday, Oct. 4, Gibson was one of two keynote speakers at a summit titled “A Blueprint for Change: Ending Cycles of Gender-Based Violence & Homelessness,” hosted by the Urban Resource Institute (URI), a leading domestic violence shelter service provider, and news organization City & State. The event was held at Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Lauren Schuster, URI’s vice president of governmental affairs, who organized the summit, said giving a platform to Black and brown voices like Gibson’s and her fellow keynote speaker, actress Dr. Dawnn Lewis, was a deliberate decision. “The voices of the people who are the most impacted by gender-based violence shouldn’t only be included  in the conversation about developing solutions but they should be leading those conversations,” she said. 

The panel discussions were aimed at engaging policymakers, agencies, and elected officials with advocates, survivors, and their families to find solutions for the symbiotic issues of domestic violence and homelessness. 

“One of the most important things discussed during the day-long panels here [was] how to address some of these access issues,” said Schuster. “Primarily…survivors and families are trying to access financial or economic or economic empowerment…the vast majority of survivors of domestic violence…report that it is among the top reasons why they stay in or return to a dangerous and violent situation. 

“Helping survivors to overcome economic abuse, which isn’t often considered when you’re talking about domestic and gender-based violence, is a key component to ensuring that these folks can access safety and healing.”

Another concern addressed was pets, which are another major factor in why intimate partner violence survivors do not leave a dangerous situation due to shelter and renting restrictions. 

Then there’s the matter of youth shelters, where young people who witness or experience violence are often prone to repeat such cycles. 

Other notable speakers included Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and council members Farah Louis and Rita Joseph. 

But the Bronx isn’t alone. Statewide, municipal buildings are lit up in purple, the official color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Next Thursday, Oct. 19, marks the state’s “Purple Tuesday” recognition of survivors. 

“My mother dedicated her life to helping survivors of domestic violence, and her memory inspires me every day to take action,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “While we take time to uplift survivors this month, we also acknowledge our commitment to preventing domestic violence and keeping New Yorkers safe. I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to end domestic violence and support survivors.”

The national domestic violence hotline is 800-799-7233. For a list of events planned for Domestic Violence Awareness Month by Gibson and the community, go to bronxboropres.nyc.gov/events/.
Ariama C. Long and Tandy Lau are Report for America corps members and write about politics and public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep them writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

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