BE-SAFE Victim Advocacy Program
The BE SAFE Program, led by Tina Pilkey, Director of Domestic Violence Services, is located at Buffalo City Court, Erie County District Attorney’s Office, 50 Delaware Avenue, 4th Floor, Buffalo, New York 14202. Staff can also be reached by telephone at (716) 858-4630, 8:30-5:00pm, M-F. Should you receive a notice of a court date, please call one of the advocates there.
BE-SAFE Program advocates specialize in advocacy within the criminal courts. Although located within the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, it is a separate and distinct confidential advocacy program. BE SAFE Advocates work with any survivor of domestic violence, regardless of race, age, gender or sexual orientation, and whether or not you have a criminal case.
Advocates are located at Buffalo City Court and Erie County Court-Domestic Violence Felony Part.
Our goal is to provide support, resources & safety planning to survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. BE SAFE recognizes the impact of Domestic Violence trauma in an individual’s life.
Free & confidential services provided by Advocates include:
· Court accompaniment and advocacy,
· Supportive counseling, crisis intervention & case management,
· Individualized safety planning and risk assessment,
· Information and referrals to various programs,
· Acting as a liaison between the client and the Assistant District Attorney at your request,
· General advocacy services for medical, housing, employment and financial needs,
· BE SAFE Hotline from 8:30am-5:00pm (716-858-4630),
· Education/training and outreach for the community and law enforcement personnel on a variety of topics,
· Application assistance for the Office of Victim Services and the NYS Address Confidentiality Program
- Assistance with compiling, copying, and distributing Victim Impact Statements
- VINE program registration for offender release information
· Bi-lingual, Spanish-speaking advocates.
BE-SAFE IN THE COMMUNITY
BE SAFE provides free community outreach & training for professionals, law enforcement, Judges, and community members on a variety of topics related to Domestic Violence.
If you are involved in the Criminal Justice system, we understand that you may not be ready to proceed with criminal charges and can help explain options to maintain your safety. Advocates will assist you throughout each stage of your case, from Arraignment, Grand Jury or trial.
A SAFETY PLAN is a tool which enables victims of domestic abuse to assess their options and reduce their risk of further abuse. Leaving an abusive relationship is something that needs planning and can increase your risk. Should you feel unsafe at any time or want to discuss a safety plan please contactthe advocates for assistance.
PLEASE NOTE: Anyone can seek the help of a BE-SAFE Advocate. You do not need to have a pending criminal case to access services. Walk-ins are welcome.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence (DV) is a pattern of behavior and coercive control that may include physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, economic/financial, and/or sexual abuse perpetrated by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another within a family or intimate relationship. DV can occur between spouses, intimate partners, family members, and within dating relationships. It can occur within both heterosexual and gay/lesbian relationships. DV can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, sex, education level, religion, or economic status. Teens and Elders can also experience these forms of abuse.
How do I determine if what I’m experiencing is DV?
The following checklist of signs and cues of abuse will not absolutely determine whether your relationship is abusive, but if one or more of these items apply, you may be at increased risk for ongoing violence.
Signs of an abusive partner include:
- Physical abuse including pushes, slaps, chokes, punches, kicks, grabbing hair, holding against your will, and/or uses weapons or threatens to use them.
- Pressures you for a relationship early on.
- Displays jealous, controlling or possessive behavior, such as limiting your conduct with friends and/or family members, taking your phone to look at your call log, or makes false accusations against you;
- Is verbally abusive - calls you names or puts you down.
- Blames others for his/her problems,Won’t take responsibility, or minimizes his/her actions.
- Strangles or chokes you;
- Assaults you while you’re pregnant;
- Threatens self-harm or harm to children or pets.
- Controls your money or access to bank accounts. Doesn’t want you to work.
- Stalks, follows you, violates your order of protection/restraining order.
- Destroys your property.
- Forces you to have sex when you don’t want to.
- Uses the children against you. For example, uses them to relay messages, threatens to keep them from you, or threatens to call CPS on you.
- Makes you feel like you’re “walking on eggshells” and that nothing is ever good enough.
How does Domestic Violence affect Children?
- seeing a parent assaulted or verbally demeaned.
- hearing and/or observing loud conflict or violence.
- seeing the aftermath of an abusive incident (i.e. injuries).
- learning about what happened to their parent.
- being used by an abusive parent as part of the abuse.
- seeing a parent abuse his/her new partner during visits.
- being denied what is owed to them through child support.
CHILDREN DO MORE THAN SIMPLY WITNESS THE ABUSE
- Play referee between parents;
- Attempt to rescue an injured parent;
- Try to deflect the abuser’s attention onto them;
- Distract the abuser in some manner;
- Attempt to physically intervene or defend the abused parent;
- Take care of younger siblings during abuse;
- May be forced to participate in the violence;
- May be taken hostage during the incident;
- Seek outside help (e.g. calling 911 or running to a neighbor’s house).
Abuse can occur in different types of relationships:
ABUSE OF OLDER INDIVIDUALS
Older adults can experience abuse by a partner or family member.
Types of abuse include: · Physical, Emotional, Verbal, Financial, Sexual, and Neglect
Abuse or mistreatment may be a crime. If it is an emergency or could be dangerous, call 911.
Adult Protective Services – If you need protection or know someone who does, call your local Adult Protective Services office within the Department of Social Services. The number can also be obtained by calling 1-800-342-3009 (press option 6) or visit the Erie County Adult Protective Services website.
Locally you may contact the Center for Elder Law & Justice at (716) 853-3087.
ABUSE OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
An abuser may use their partner’s disability to cause then harm by withholding assistive devices or medication; or may mislead police or others by miscommunicating information. People with disabilities face risks such as: lack of transportation, interpreters, and housing options.
ABUSE IN LGBTQ RELATIONSHIPS
Intimate Partner Violence can occur regardless of sexual orientation, identity, or gender expression. Additional ways LGBTQ individuals can be abused include: Threatening to expose your sexual orientation, making you feel bad about your identity, alienating you from the LGBTQ community, and preventing you from obtaining hormone therapy medications.
ABUSE OF IMMIGRANT SURVIVORS
Whether you are a documented or undocumented individual, you have a right to live free of abuse. Immigrant survivors often feel trapped because of immigration status & laws, language barriers, social isolation, and lack of financial resources. For specialized assistance you may call International Institute of Buffalo at (716) 883-1900.
ABUSE IN TEEN DATING RELATIONSHIPS
Teen dating abuse is based on maintaining power & control over another by using emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Tactics may include: excessive texting/calling, pressuring you to have sex, acting jealous/possessive, harassing you on social media, or isolating you from friends/family. You have the option of obtaining an Order of Protection through Family Court or to call the police. Making these decisions can be scary, so speak with an Advocate about your options.
CYCLE OF ENTRAPMENT
Abuse is hard recognize because it can be surrounded by periods of calm. This cycle gives us hope that our partner/family member will change, but soon leads to an escalation of abuse.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
Why did the police make an arrest?
If the police are called, they must determine if there is probable cause, or enough evidence that an incident has occurred, in order to make an arrest. Mandatory Arrest means that the police have probable cause and the perpetrator must be arrested. The State of New York will then press the charges.
If the perpetrator left the scene and an arrest was NOT made, the police should give you a police report. If you live in the City of Buffalo and would like to file criminal charges, you should take this card to the Family Justice Center located at 438 Main Street, Suite 201 , Buffalo, NY. Monday-Friday 9-3:30pm, or call (716) 553-7233. http://fjcsafe.org/
What will happen at the Arraignment?
An Arraignment is the defendant’s first appearance in front of a Judge after his/her arrest. The defendant (perpetrator) is formally charged and either bail is set or the defendant is released. Bail is the Judge’s decision, and is based on the likelihood that the defendant will return to court. A new court date will be set and the Judge may issue an Order of Protection on your behalf. The Judge may do this without your permission or presence in court. You are not mandated to appear for an arraignment. In some cases, you may be contacted by pre-trial Services, and they may ask you if you have concerns for your safety. Keep in mind their role is to assist in the defendant’s release. They are not victim advocates and they do not work for the DA’s Office.
What will happen with my case?
The defendant may be offered a reduced plea once the District Attorney has discussed this with you. If a defendant does not want to plead guilty, then the Judge may set the case for trial. You may have to testify during the trial, along with any other witnesses and police officers.
How often will I have to come to court?
After an arraignment, you will be notified by mail to appear for the next court date, usually a pre-trial conference. The DA’s Office will try to limit the number of times you need to come in for your convenience and safety.
What happens if my case involves Felony-level charges?
After an arraignment, a date for a Felony Hearing will be set within 5 days. The defendant will choose whether or not to waive his right to a hearing. If he/she chooses to waive, then the case will be transferred to the grand jury where felony level cases are handled. The defendant may choose to have a felony hearing, which requires you to testify about the basic facts of the case. This is not a trial where the Judge is deciding guilt or innocence, but rather whether or not to hold the case for Grand Jury action. A victim advocate from the BE SAFE Program who works specifically on felony-level cases is available to assist you with any questions you may have. Click here to see a chart about the steps in the DV Court Process.
What happens at sentencing?
Depending on the level of the charges, the defendant may be sentenced at the time he/she pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial. The Judge could also choose to order a Pre-sentence Investigation (PSI) to be done by the Probation Department. This is a report that will be submitted to the Judge regarding the defendant’s background, history and recommendations for sentencing. The Sentence is up to the Judge who may or may not follow these recommendations. Part of the report may include a Victim Impact Statement, which is a letter you may write to the Judge at the sentencing phase that describes how the crime has impacted your life and what you would like to see happen as far as sentencing. Depending on the level of the charges, a sentence may include: Programs for abuse issues, Alcohol/Drug Counseling, Probation, Jail, or a combination of these.
What is an Order of Protection?
An Order of Protection (OP), or restraining order, is issued by the Judge ordering the defendant to stay away from you and have no contact with you by phone, mail or third parties. This is a court order from the Judge naming you as the protected party. Although your name is on it, it is a court order and can only be changed by the Judge. Another type of order is the no-offensive contact order of protection, which means the defendant can be near you, but must refrain from any harassing, threatening or physical behavior towards you.
We understand you may have very important reasons for wanting contact with the defendant and will work with you to address your concerns.
What if my abuser continues to harass and/or contact me?
After an arrest is made, it is very common for the defendant to attempt to reach out to you, both in person, by phone, and through third parties. The defendant may contact you from jail in violation of an order of protection. If the defendant contacts you, you should call 911 immediately. You can also do the following:
- Change your phone number or screen your calls.
- Document the dates/times of the harassment in a small calendar or notebook.
- Contact a BE SAFE Advocate at 858-4630 to alert the DA’s Office after having called the police.
- Go to the Family Justice Center to receive assistance (438 Main St. Suite 201, Buffalo, NY).
- Bring any letters the defendant has written you in violation of the order to the police or DA’s Office.
Click HERE to access a more detailed Safety Plan.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office is part of a collaborative with other non-residential Domestic Violence service providers who established a new crisis response plan to streamline domestic violence services in Erie County.
To access the 24 hour Domestic Violence Response for Erie County call (716) 862-HELP (4357) or (716) 884-6000 for shelter.
BE SAFE is a NYS approved non-residential provider of Domestic Violence services, and is prohibited from discrimination, harassment, and bullying in all its forms. Services are provided regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, marital status, or disability.