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The Problem With The Institutions That NYS Crime Victims Board Relies On...Are Hosptials Screening Domestic Violence Victims Eff

Posted May 06 2010 12:00am

Today I had a conversation with Legislative Director, Chris Bresnan, regarding the The NYS CVB and their response to victims of domestic abuse during the claims process. A meeting took place between Tina Stanford and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Chris Bresnan regarding domestic violence cases that are submitted to the NYS CVB. Over the last year, I have been aware of many NYS domestic violence victims that have submitted compensation applications to the NYS Crime Victims Board, with and without documentation that claims a crime has occurred, and many victims have been denied their compensation due to obscurities that exist in their DV cases. I have been speaking out for all of these victims of violence, especially those who have been severely injured, as I was, due to brutal cases of domestic violence. According to law, a victim that seeks compensation from the state due to a crime must have evidence that a crime occurred. In cases of domestic violence, these documents that clearly state a "crime has occurred", such as an accurate police report etc., do not exist simply because many women affected by this crime are too afraid to report. This lack of documentation puts the victim at a disadvantage in the long run, especially when he/she seeks compensation or a lawsuit for crimes committed. In the long run, a victim will run into a wall because their claims with state agencies like the Crime Victims Board will usually be denied or sent through an appeals process.

So, is the problem really the Crimes Victims Board? The problem: The CVB relies on other institutions to provide evidence and data of a crime committed, and those institutions are dropping the ball in my opinion. What I keep noticing, and have experienced from being a victim of violence myself, is that the very scene of a crime has to be properly addressed and handled, and it is this part that is weak. If only St. Lukes Hospital in Newburgh, NY had properly screened me the day my husband broke my leg, or screened me at all in the ER for that matter-- maybe my abuser would have served a sentence, maybe I would have admitted to the abuse right then and there, maybe I would have been armed with proper police reports for the NYS CVB when I filed for state compensation for my injuries....maybe this screening tool could save lives if it were actually done properly, or even done at all? Maybe. Some hospitals do screen patients, as the Joint Commission "recommends" that some sort of screening is done by staff members, but the screening that is in place, in my opinion, is not effective. The questions are too short, too direct, and while part of the process should focus on subtle cues, the screening done by most hospital staff do not look for the non-verbal cues that many women in the ER demonstrate after they have been badly abused. In 2007, I was brought to the ER with a major injury and no one asked questions, no one screened me, and no one picked up on very obvious verbal and non-verbal cues, and no one recorded anything into my hospital file at all. In my opinion, they ignored the signs, and we can't afford that in this country. We can't afford to be ignorant together, and let women return home from an ER with their abusers and then fail again down the road when they fight to become survivors.

The blame can't be placed solely on the Health Care Institutions, one has to consider the first group of people dealing with an abused person, the police. In NYS there is no "Standard Operating Procedure" for Domestic Incident calls. Again, as an example, in 2007 I called the police and my abuser gave them his statement of what happened upon arrival. We were not separated for questioning at all even though the whole situation was completely screaming "Domestic Violence"-- me, severely injured on the ground and my husband untouched...

Right from the beginning, the scene of the crime is often dealt with inappropriately in cases involving domestic abuse. It should be mandatory that the first line of defense against violence be experts on it, able to detect it, and able to protect victims to the best of their ability. It seems that when this first line of defense fails victims of abuse, the road ahead begins to fail them too, especially when victims choose to become survivors and fight back.

In the future, I am planning to work on solutions that address hospital staff members and law enforcement failures in these situations. These people save lives, and I truly am grateful for having them come to my rescue in my time of need, but there are important issues here that need to be addressed and solved so that we can better protect victims of violence.
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