BE-SAFE Victim Advocacy Program
The BE SAFE Program has specialized Domestic Violence Advocates and Social Workers to assist you. 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.
Specially trained Victim Advocates and Social Workers are available to address your special needs and circumstances. The Domestic Violence Social Workers have extensive experience working with victims of domestic abuse, both in and out of court.
BE-SAFE Advocates can provide
...the following confidential and free services:
- Supportive counseling and crisis intervention in person and by phone;
- Court accompaniment and advocacy;
- Safety planning;
- Referral and linkage to other needed programs, such as shelter, emergency housing, and long-term counseling;
- Information and education about domestic violence, teen dating violence, elder abuse, and assistance for children who witness abuse;
- Information and education about the court process;
- Facilitation of your wishes to the Assistant District Attorneys;
- Assistance with filing compensation claim applications with New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS),
- Assistance with compiling, copying, and distributing Victim Impact Statements; and
- Providing bilingual services.
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. If your case is a felony-level crime, an Advocate will provide on-going support and accompaniment to each proceeding, whether it is 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. Should you feel unsafe at any time, it is important to notify the advocates so they can assist you.
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 should at least consider the possibility of abuse. Whether another person:
□ Physically hurts you: including pushes, slaps, chokes, punches, kicks, grabs your hair, holds you 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.
□ Is verbally abusive- calls you names or puts you down.
□ Blames others for his/her problems or mistakes.
□ Doesn’t take responsibility for his/her actions or minimizes them.
□ 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.
□ Becomes aggressive with the use of alcohol or drugs.
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.
Artwork printed with permission from the Minnesota Domestic Abuse Project.
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).
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 warrant card. If you would like to file criminal charges, you should take this card to the Family Justice Center located at 237 Main St. 14th floor, 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 Judge 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 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.
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.
- Bring any letters the defendant has written you in violation of the order to the 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.