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‘See Something, Say Something’ About Domestic Violence

First Baptist Church hosts domestic violence conference

The First Baptist Church of Westbury hosted its 2nd Annual Faith Community Meets Domestic Violence Conference on April 28 to begin a conversation among local residents on domestic violence and spousal abuse in the wake of Nassau County’s perennial battles against such occurrences.

After a handful of instances with domestic violence sprouted up locally over the last five years, including the 2009 murder of Westbury resident Jo’Anna Bird, the First Baptist Church of Westbury and several local organizations joined forces to help to spread the word about the warning signs of domestic violence and spousal abuse to prevent any more violent occurrences from happening in the future.

Keynote speakers at the event included 13th District Assemblyman Charles Lavine, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell, staffers from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau Department of Social Services, Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV), Nassau County Medical Center, Minister Cheryl Braxton, Bishop Lionel Harvey, Sr. and a handful of domestic violence survivors who were brave enough to stand up and share their personal accounts of the horrific abuse they once faced.

The message was clear: If you see something, say something. Abuse comes in many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological. It includes any behaviors that are meant to frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

According to recent United States Bureau of Justice statistics, domestic violence instances rank high among the nation’s most chronically underreported criminal offenses. One in every four women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lives, but less than 25 percent of the incidents are dispatched to the police in a given year. Approximately 400,000 domestic crime reports are filed each year in New York State alone, including over 200,000 orders of protection issues by state courts as recently as 2009.

Midway through the event, a gathering of esteemed panelists fielded questions and concerns from the dozens of residents in attendance. Panelist members on hand were Dr. Tonya Blount, Denise Doris-Brown (Cross-Over Ministries), Regina Edgeworth (Uniondale School District), April Cofield Essix (Memorial Presbyterian Church), Elaine Genise (North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center), Barbara Lopez-Heffernan (NUMC), Sergeant Judith Hoffman (NCPD), Katherine Jennings (Domestic Violence Survivor), Dale Kassan (NCCADV), Florence Minicozzi (Hempstead High School Team Center), Anthony Rizzuto (Seafield Center), District 2 Legislator Robert Troiano and Nassau County Child Protective Services representative Gloria Wilkins.

Among the key points addressed were the facts that females in their early to mid-20s are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence, and children who witness violence between their parents have the strongest risk factors of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. The panelists stressed the importance of local residents keeping an eye out for one another to ensure the safety of each member of the Westbury community.

Edgeworth, a social worker in the Uniondale School District, said local school districts are working harder than ever to expand their efforts in dealing with students exposed to cases of domestic violence.

“I cried everyday going to school because I feared I would get beaten when I would go home,” Edgeworth said, detailing her own personal account with violence at a young age.

Edgeworth added, “The domestic issues are getting worse and teenage suicides are getting worse. Teenage pregnancies are increasing. We have a number of key issues that we’re dealing with. If you all in the Westbury community can go out and make sure they do not lose the social workers and psychologists in the school, it’s very important. They do make a major impact on these students.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which receives over 22,000 calls each month regarding domestic violence and spousal abuse, can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE.