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15th Annual Remembrance Vigil - Many take a stand against domestic violence

The Park Slope Safe Homes Project, an anti-domestic violence organization that provides support for survivors, will hold its 15th annual Remembrance Vigil on October 16 to honor those who have died as a result of domestic violence in Brooklyn.

The grim total of honorees for this year is 16, each of whom will have a candle lit in his or her honor. The silent vigil, which coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, will start at P.S. 321, 1807 7th Avenue, and proceed down 7th and 5th Avenues before concluding at Park Slope United Methodist Church, 493 8th Street.

While the rate of violent crime in the city has gone down markedly in the past 15 years, the number of people killed as a result of domestic violence has stayed relatively constant, according to Catherine Hodes, director of Safe Homes. Hodes said her organization usually honors between 10 and 15 people per year.

“There’s usually at least one male victim [this year, there are two], there’s almost always a child in the group [one 19-year-old], and there’s usually a friend, relative, or bystander [one],” she said.

The vigil usually draws between 100 and 200 attendees. Guest speakers this year include the Voices of Women Organizing Project, a group of survivors, and the Center for Anti-Violence Education, a local martial arts school that will do an anti-violence demonstration. Assorted elected officials will also speak.

A 30-year-old subsidiary of Good Shepherd Services, Safe Homes provides emergency shelter and various support services for survivors such as counseling, safety planning, and legal and housing advocacy. Its services are available in both English and Spanish, for men and women in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.

It serves approximately 100 survivors per year on an ongoing basis, while fielding approximately 40-50 hotline calls per month. For safety reasons, both its office and emergency shelter center are in undisclosed location.

“The focus is on re-empowering survivors so that they can take steps towards safety and autonomy and recover from the violence,” said Hodes, who prefers the term “survivors” to “victims.”

“When you hear the word victim, it conjures up someone who’s completely helpless. There are a lot of people who don’t want to be identified with victimhood; they want to be identified with surviving. It’s a more empowering word.”

Hodes said the first step in the journey to safety is both the hardest and most important.

“Survivors are often very fearful, with good reason. There are a lot of threats and control, so it can get very risky for them,” she said.

“Also, there’s the issue of shame, and all sorts of cultural reasons why people don’t reach out for help. There are all sorts of things that prevent all of us from seeking any kind of assistance when we need it. Sometimes it takes a while to realize, ‘I need to fix this, I can fix this, now where do I turn?’”

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The Park Slope Safe Homes Project hotline is 718-499-2151. It is open during business hours, and all calls are confidential.

During non-business hours, contact the New York City hotline, managed by the Safe Horizon organization, at 800-621-HOPE.

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