On September 22, the White House issued an Executive Order, intended to eliminate most, if not all, diversity training provided to government employees and all of its contractors and suppliers. Its stated intent is to “prohibit racial stereotyping, divisiveness and discrimination” but it actually wrongly portrays diversity training as something that is causing “distress, discomfort, guilt and anguish” to people who, frankly, may simply be invited to reckon with what has undeniably been a history in our society of marginalizing populations due to their gender, race, ethnic background, or other traits.
Whatever the intent, this order seeks to have a silencing effect, an effort to suppress what has over the past several years often been an important and freeing conversation within this Country. The United States is and continues to be a magnificent, though imperfect, nation. The facts of history clearly reveal the disparate treatment that has been inflicted on certain segments of our population. Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her 2018 naturalization ceremony speech, spoke eloquently of the disparities that existed at the founding of this Country. Voting was only a right provided to white, male property owners. Not only were women denied that basic citizen’s right but, further, they saw oppression in numerous other ways such as the denial of ownership of property. Well beyond this, of course, we are aware of the ways in which African Americans were enslaved for centuries, only to be released from legal bondage in 1865. And even since then there have continued to be enumerable ways, both legal and psychological, that people of color have been deprived of the full opportunity to pursue prosperity and grow into the citizenry that most of us have enjoyed, without even a thought.
Diversity Equity Inclusion training, which we have promoted within Family Services, has been an opportunity to hear voices who have not been heard in the past. It is an opportunity to come to terms with the means by which those in power, primarily people who are white, have benefited from how others have been discriminated against, systemically reducing their opportunities for a better life. Such training is intended to not induce guilt, but rather accountability for what we can and should do moving forward for the sake of justice and our common humanity.
Those of us who have had the clear privilege to be part of a powerful and advantaged set of people within this Country are now in a position to actually reckon with and find ways in which we can be accountable in opening opportunities to people who had heretofore been denied those opportunities. The purpose of these efforts is not to cause “anguish, guilt, division”, but to allow each of us to recognize and reverse the divisions that have kept us apart from one another.
Recognition and reversal of oppressive systems within our society, coupled with an acknowledgement and encouragement of an individual’s and a culture’s assets and agency is a powerful means of promoting positive change.
This Executive Order is perilous in that it threatens to reverse positive headway that has recently been undertaken to acknowledge the oppression that has existed and still exists and finally find ways in which those oppressions can be eradicated. This work when properly exercised does not intend to create division but reconciliation around those systems that HAVE divided us to date.
At Family Services, we are bringing this issue to our partners and colleagues in the community, seeking their joined advocacy, in exposing what is disingenuously garbed as an effort to combat “race and sexual stereotyping and scapegoating” but is actually a further promotion of deep denial.
We all spent the better part of this year hunkered down in our homes owing to social isolation measures that were implemented across the globe to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. When the stay at home orders began in April, I heard a variety of reactions from my friends, family, and co-workers. Some were angry, feeling overly restricted, others were relieved, staying home and working in their slippers each day. Some were excessively bored; others took up a new hobby. For me, the first thing that came to mind when I heard about the COVID restrictions, was how extraordinarily dangerous this time could be for victims of domestic violence and child abuse. Isolation, staying at home, social distancing, economic recession—these are all things that we know increase the risk of serious injury and even death, for individuals living in abusive situations. Under normal circumstances, victims of domestic violence and child abuse live in fear of danger. During a global pandemic, the fear and reality of that danger increases.
While home is a safe-haven for many, during the COVID pandemic, victims of domestic violence and child abuse are sheltering in place with the very people who are harming them. Additionally, through isolation, many individuals have been cut off from the support of family, friends, co-workers, and other community services.
Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19 due to increased stress levels among parents as well as diminished support systems that many parents rely on, such as extended family, childcare, schools, and community organizations. Additionally, teachers, coaches, and family members who typically are witness to the signs of abuse are unable to report to the proper authorities.
Over the past 6 months Family Services has been proactive in reaching those most vulnerable during this time. We distributed 10,000 flyers to over 50 local businesses to distribute with to-go food orders that provided resources and safety tips. We utilized a variety of media outlets to reach individuals in need of support. Most importantly, we never closed our doors to those who were in need. We remained available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to support victims of crime. We shifted our service delivery where necessary to maintain a safe connection to those in need.
Many people have asked, how can I help a friend or family member that might be in need during this time? While we may be physically distant, we do not have to be socially distant. Technology allows us to stay in touch, even seeing one another on a regular basis. I encourage you to build a community around those who may be at risk of harm. Isolation is one of the strongest tactics an abuser can use, so we must support our friends and family in staying connected. Check in on your friends, family, and neighbors. Let them know you are here if they need anything, and there are resources available to help.
please reach out to our 24-hour hotline
Domestic Violence Hotline
By the Numbers
As a result of the Sexual Assault Response Team collaborative efforts, over 91% of victims of sexual assault in Dutchess County are connected to a rape crisis advocate and victim services. In addition, over half of the sexual assault cases in Dutchess County are reported to law enforcement, compared with the national average of 1/3 of the cases report to law enforcement. This is due in large part to the focused efforts and collaboration of the many organizations that make up the SART Team.
please call our 24-hour hotline
Intimate Partner Violence Intervention (IPVI)
In 2019, the City of Poughkeepsie was chosen by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) as one of three pilot sites nationwide for the Intimate Partner Violence Intervention (IPVI). Developed by the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, IPVI leverages strong interagency partnerships on the ground between law enforcement, prosecutors, probation, and social services providers. IPVI is an offender focused, victim-centered approach to holding accountable the most serious and chronic offenders known to law enforcement, all while prioritizing victim and community safety. IPVI intervenes where possible to prevent violence from continuing or escalating by offering support services and elevating the community moral voice against violence. With its unique focus on offender accountability, IPVI offers Dutchess County a novel opportunity to leverage its law enforcement and community resources to address the ongoing challenge of chronic intimate partner violence, while also continuing to ensure the highest levels of victim and community safety.
The Operations Team was formed in early 2019, with leadership from the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office, and Family Services. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Operations Team has continued to meet to implement the Intervention. The team has been able to fully implement the A Level Response and is in the process of preparing to implement the next steps in the Intervention. The Operations Team looks forward to seeing the impact of IPVI on enhancing the existing DV infrastructure and strengthening support to members of the community.
Teen Resource Activity Center (TRAC)
During the early months of this year when schools were forced to close due to stay at home orders, the Teen Resource Activity Center (TRAC) programming was put on pause. To adapt to the new realities of a stay at home order, the TRAC team worked together to develop and launch virtual Zoom sessions to stay connected with Poughkeepsie youth. However, we quickly learned that youth were expressing screen fatigue and we needed to figure out a way to provide in-person services in order to best serve our youth population. Along with lesser restrictions in phase four, TRAC pivoted to a local park to offer an in-person program.
Skill Drill Summer Sessions, a bootcamp for youth to develop and enhance their basketball skills, was offered to youth to participate in. Our Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) activities were also completed in the outdoor space and a total of 55 youth participated throughout the summer.
Through the challenging summer, Family Services was fortunate to be able to run our Summer Youth Employment Program. This is an incredible learning opportunity for youth who are able to work in businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the City of Poughkeepsie to develop transferable skills applicable to entry level jobs. During August and September, TRAC placed 29 teens ages 14-18 in jobs at Twisted Soul, Poughkeepsie City School District Food Services and IT departments, Walkway Over the Hudson, and at Family Services Summer Enrichment Program, Center for Victim Safety and Support, and Maintenance and Facilities Department. Youth participated in financial literacy training provided by Cornell Cooperative and attended a virtual Youth Summit presented by the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board. Marc Molinaro kicked off the Youth Summit and the keynote speaker was Micah Jumpp who spoke about Dutchess Got Talent. The work of our community legacy, Tree Arrington, was also highlighted.
TRAC’s Poughkeepsie Youth Theatre (PYT) was not able hold its annual performance to the community. To re-engage the teens, PYT pivoted and offered a summer workshop in “Creating a Comedy Character”. Participating youth also worked collectively to create and produce a radio mystery theatre play about two college housemates who embark on a much needed break from school. But their surprise visit to “Uncle Harry” proves to be anything but. You can listen to the radio play here.
With the new school year starting, TRAC has reopened at the Family Partnership Center as of September 14th where most of our regular activities have resumed. In order to ensure physical distancing, TRAC has modified its schedule from its normal weekday “drop-in” times from 4pm-9pm. This fall, we are making the program available for 30 middle school youth between 4pm-7 pm and 30 high school youth from 7pm-9 pm.
A Look Back
On October 22nd, Family Services received the Business Award at the 34th Annual Dutchess County Executive’s Arts Awards hosted by Arts Mid-Hudson. The award was presented in recognition of three art installations at the Family Partnership Center that showcase Family Services’ vision of using the arts to enhance community life and enrich Dutchess County’s cultural heritage. Board Member Freddy Garcia, who presented the Award to CEO Brian Doyle, said it best when he noted, “The beauty of all who visit the Family Partnership Center is being greeted by the beautiful artwork that reflects what we’re all about—collaboration, inspiration, and community.”
To learn more about the art installations at the Family Partnership Center, visit the link here.
Our 10th Annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes may have looked a little different this year, but the mission to end domestic violence and sexual assault in our community remained the same.
Whether in person at our community walk, at home around the neighborhood, or on an outdoor adventure, the spirit was felt and to date—through fundraising, sponsorships and our online auction—we have raised $63,887!
Thank you to everyone that made this event successful, and especially our prize winners that went above and beyond:
Most Unique Donors: Kait Rodriques & Patricia DeJesus
In a time that has been so difficult for so many, our community has been incredible with their commitment to our work and this event. Thank you again for a successful Walk A Mile.
To view more photos from our 10th Annual Walk A Mile, visit our website here or follow our Family Services Walk A Mile social media pages.
Whether you vote early, vote by absentee ballot or vote in person on November 3rd, it is important to exercise your civic duty in order to have your voice heard. To look up your polling place or locations to vote early in New York State, click the button below.
Family Services’ 2019