Erie County District Attorney's Office Observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Modified: October 4, 2021 11:58am

10/4/2021

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, District Attorney John J. Flynn reminds residents of Erie County that his office remains a resource for victims of domestic violence and will continue to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. DA Flynn encourages anyone, those who have been a victim of domestic violence as well as those who may be at risk of abuse, to inquire about services available through the BE SAFE Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy Program.

The BE SAFE program specializes in advocacy within the criminal courts. While staff work in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, it is a separate and distinct program with six victim advocates available to provide trauma-informed support and resources to anyone impacted by domestic violence. While the program primarily works with victims who are navigating the criminal justice process and rebuilding their lives following the arrest of the offender, you do not need to have a pending criminal case to speak with an advocate and access services, which include:

  • Individualized safety planning and risk assessment
  • Supportive counseling, crisis intervention and case management
  • Filing criminal charges and obtaining orders of protection with the Assistant DA
  • Accompaniment to criminal court proceedings
  • Referrals to services, including counseling, medical care, housing and employment
  • Assistance in filing applications with the New York State Office of Victim Services and the New York State Address Confidentiality Program

Domestic Violence is a pattern of controlling behavior by an intimate partner or family member that may include physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, isolation, verbal abuse, financial abuse and/or sexual abuse. Abusers may use other tactics to gain power and control of a victim such as minimizing, denying or blaming the victim for their own behavior or making threats involving children. Some may not realize that they are a victim or at-risk of violence if the perpetrator has not become physically abusive yet. Abusive behaviors can happen slowly over time or quickly following a change in the relationship. If an intimate partner or family member exhibits behaviors toward an individual that restrict their personal freedom or cause fear/intimidation, that person may be the victim of domestic violence. It can be difficult and potentially dangerous to leave an abusive relationship, which is why it is important for victims to seek help and create a safety plan.

Recently, District Attorney Flynn merged the office’s Domestic Violence Bureau and the Special Victims Unit. Now, there are eleven experienced Assistant District Attorneys handling the investigation and prosecution of all cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Prosecutors have seen an increase in the number of victims reporting incidents of sexual violence upon further investigation into the case after the arrest of an intimate partner on a domestic violence-related crime. In some cases, additional sex offense charges have been filed against the offender. There has also been an increase in reported domestic violence-related crimes committed by one family member against another. Our mission is to aggressively pursue justice on behalf of our most vulnerable victims while also being sensitive to the unique issues and dynamics associated with these crimes. Due to the sensitive nature of these investigations, prosecutors assigned to the Special Victims/Domestic Violence Bureau receive specialized training and prosecute these cases by means of a multi-disciplinary team approach designed to minimize the trauma suffered by the victim.

The Special Victims/Domestic Violence Bureau has a dual mission: to prosecute offenders and to prevent them from harming the victim in the future. In addition to holding abusers accountable for their crimes, our Assistant District Attorneys work to secure orders of protection to prevent the defendant from having further contact with the victim.

To date this year, there have been six victims who died as a result of domestic violence in Erie County. In 2021, all of the confirmed domestic violence-related homicide victims were women. Of those six victims, four women were the victims of a murder-suicide. Two defendants are currently pending prosecution for their alleged crimes.

“Domestic violence is a silent epidemic that thrives in an environment of secrecy and shame. I am concerned that there may be victims who are either not coming forward or unable to come forward. It is important that we continue to talk about this issue, recognize the signs of domestic violence, and share information on how to access help. My office will continue to provide support for the survivors of domestic violence and aggressively prosecute the offenders,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

BE SAFE advocates are able to provide remote advocacy through phone outreach on any incoming case. To date, our advocates have provided 13,155 total units of service to clients this year. Those services include supportive counseling, safety planning, referrals, hotline assistance, crisis intervention, transportation, translations, and applications for compensation through the NYS Office of Victim Services. Of those served this year, 1,210 individuals were new to the program.

Throughout the month of October, Old County Hall, located at 92 Franklin Street in Buffalo, will be illuminated in purple to recognize the courage and strength of the survivors and to remember those who have lost their lives to domestic violence.

For more information on the BE SAFE Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, call 716-858-4630 or visit www.erie.gov/besafe.

Domestic Violence-Related Homicides in Erie County

Year

Total Victims

2021 (as of 10/1)

6

2020

3

2019

14

2018

6

2017

4