For decades, Family Services has been utilizing research-based practices as well as creating and modeling best practices in our work to support victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes. Our person-centered approach supports survivor’s rights, dignity, healing, and self-determination. In 2020, Family Services provided advocacy and counseling to 2456 victims and survivors and answered 3644 calls on our 24/7 hotlines.
Center for Victim Safety and Support (CVSS):
At the Center for Victim Safety and Support adult and child victims of violence and their loved ones have access to 24-hour assessment and screening services, advocacy, crisis counseling, referrals and information that increases knowledge about rights and services that are available. Over 3500 victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes received assistance through this critical service. Often, individuals initially connected through the hotline continue to receive ongoing individual or group counseling and advocacy services for as long as support is needed. In 2020, 2456 victims and survivors received services through CVSS. Upon assessment at case closing, 92% of victims who were assessed demonstrated an increased ability to cope with the effects of the crime and 98% of victims assessed expressed knowledge of options/services available to them and 97% recognized their legal rights.
Healing from Trauma is not easy, and the Center for Victim Safety and Support utilize a number of evidence-based therapy modalities in their work to assist survivors of violence cope with trauma including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) and Child Centered Play Therapy. CBT is a therapeutic technique that is often used for adults and children as a way to cope with the post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression that is often associated with sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes. Through CBT, therapists help clients understand the relationship between beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, and the behaviors that follow. CBT helps survivors learn how to challenge and modify unhelpful believes related to trauma.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is a research supported, integrative psychotherapy approach designed to treat symptoms of trauma. Through EMDR techniques, clients replace negative emotional reactions to difficult memories associated with trauma with less charged or positive reactions or beliefs. A number of studies have shown it can reduce the emotional distress resulting from traumatic memories and some studies who that for those who have experience multiple traumas, 77% of survivors experience reduction in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. (1)
Child Centered Play Therapy is a method of play therapy that create a nonjudgmental, emotionally supportive atmosphere that provides children with the psychological safety needed to impact emotions and behavior self-regulation. In CCPT, a child’s experience within the counseling relationship is critical in creating and meaningful lasting, positive change. Research shows that Child Centered Play therapy is effective at overcoming traumatic experiences, decreasing anxiety and depression, and building self-esteem. (2)
Universal Response to Domestic Violence:
According to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, there were 802 incidents of domestic violence reported to law enforcement in Dutchess County in 2019. For many years, Family Services Center for Victim Safety and Support has led the Coordinated Community response to Domestic Violence in Dutchess County in order to ensure a victim centered response to domestic violence. Working with partner agencies of the Universal Response to Domestic Violence Steering Committee comprised of service providers, civil and criminal justice partners, offender treatment and county agencies, Family Services utilizes researched based best practices including the Lethality Assessment Program increase victim safety and offender accountability as well as enhance the systems response to domestic violence.
Research shows that for 28-33% of domestic violence victims, the homicide or attempted homicide was the first act of violence, which shows that physical violence is not necessarily the most accurate predictor of homicide. When assessing homicide risk in domestic violence, first responders need to look for other, non-physical methods of control, many of which may not even be crimes. Research also shows that, in the year prior to the domestic violence homicide, more than 44% of abusers were arrested, and almost one-third of victims contacted the police. However, only 4% of abused victims had used a domestic violence hotline or shelter within the year prior to being killed by an intimate partner. This statistic shows that victims who need the most help were not connected with domestic violence service providers for help. (3)
To combat domestic violence homicide, Family Services and community partners utilize the Lethality Assessment Program—Maryland Model (LAP) is an innovative, multi-pronged strategy to prevent domestic violence homicides. Law enforcement and victim service professionals trained in LAP use an evidence-based lethality assessment instrument based on the pioneering research of Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell to identify victims of intimate partner violence who are in highest danger of being killed by their intimate partners. Once a High-Danger victim has been identified through the screening assessment, the first responder immediately connects the victim via a hotline call to Family Services Center for Victim Safety and Support for emergency safety planning and enhanced service provision. (3)
A study on the effectiveness of LAP in Oklahoma found that the Lethality Screen has a 92.86% sensitivity for predicting near fatal violence, meaning it correctly identified 13 out of every 14 victims at risk of homicide as a result of domestic violence. Participants in the LAP experienced less frequent and less severe violence than victims who did not have a LAP response. Victims involved in LAP engaged in more protective actions such as hiding their partner’s weapons and accessing formal domestic violence services than those who did not receive a LAP response. They also were more likely to engage in the Criminal Justice System and be more satisfied with police response to the domestic violence call. (4)
Since the Lethality Assessment Program launched in Dutchess County in 2014, 44% of victims of domestic violence have screened in at increased risk of lethality. More than half of the victims connected with an advocate immediately while law enforcement was on scene and 68% of high danger victims connected for ongoing additional services (advocacy, counseling, shelter, etc) post screening.
Sexual Assault Response Team:
Sexual assault is a notoriously underreported crime. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Further, 1 in 5 women have experienced attempted or completed rape. SART endeavors to reduce barriers to reporting for victims/survivors. Prior to SART, Dutchess County had 27 sexual assault reported to Law Enforcement in 2014. Since SART began in 2015, Dutchess County has had an average of 108 sexual assault reported annually to Law Enforcement between 2015 and 2018 according to the NYS DCJS uniform crime report. In 2018, 55% of victims/survivors completed forensic exams to assist with the prosecution of cases. The national average for victims of sexual assault repotting to Law Enforcement is just over a third of all cases. In 2020, 58% of sexual assault cases were reported to police, a statistically significant improvement over the national average.
Support for sexual assault survivors is not just available to those who report violence to law enforcement. SART review, as well as advocacy and crisis counseling from victim services, is available to all survivors – and the team approach has greatly improved victim connection to services. A year after SART began, 76% of victims were connected to a rape crisis advocate and other victim services. Since then, over 91% of victims have been connected to a rape crisis advocate every year.