Episode 14: NYC Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence
Tracey Downing and Maisie Breit from the NYC Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence visit with Karen and Sabah to explain the programs, training and education that the office provides to the New York City community.
The Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) develops policies and programs, provides training and prevention education, conducts research and evaluations, performs community outreach, and operates the New York City Family Justice Centers. ENDGBV collaborates with City agencies and community stakeholders to ensure access to inclusive services for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence (GBV). GBV can include intimate partner and family violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking.
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Sabah Fatima [00:00:31] This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:38] Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter: a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your co-host Karen Ortman Assistant Vice President of Field Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional.
Sabah Fatima [00:01:00] And I am Sabah Fatima premed graduate student here at NYU College of Global Public Health. If any information presented today is triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999.
Karen Ortman [00:01:15] Today, we are happy to have two leaders from the mayor's office to end domestic and gender based violence: Tracey Downing, director of Training Programs and Initiatives and Maisie Breit, Training and curriculum specialist. Tracey and Maisie are going to share with our listeners the ways in which the mayor's office is combating intimate partner violence by providing awareness, resources and education to New York City residents. Welcome, Tracey and Maisie. Tracey, will you begin by explaining the meaning of the term intimate partner violence as well as the dynamics associated with this type of violence?
Tracey Downing [00:01:51] Sure, intimate partner violence is defined as a range of coercive and abusive behaviors is used by one intimate partner to gain and maintain power and control over their intimate partner. And this happens within the context, like I said, within an intimate relationship. It's often referred to as domestic violence. The terms are used interchangeably. However, domestic violence is an umbrella term that also includes family violence, such as violence between siblings or between a child and a grandparent. So domestic violence would be an umbrella term, whereas intimate partner violence is really- it's violence that occurs between intimate partners. And it doesn't necessarily mean that people are sexually active in this day and age where there are many different types of relationships. Relationships can also happen within the context of online dating.
Karen Ortman [00:02:51] What if it's a child over the age of 18 but still lives under the parent's roof? Let's say the child is twenty three and there is abuse going on between and it's not sexual, but physical.
Tracey Downing [00:03:05] Yes, that would be covered under domestic violence, and sexual violence would also be covered under domestic violence. And they don't have to live together. They don't have to live under the same household. They just have to have some sort of familial relationship.
Karen Ortman [00:03:16] Tracey, why is the mayor' s office taken on the issue of intimate partner violence in the first place?
Tracey Downing [00:03:21] Well, we were actually created by voters by vote in 2001. We came in to effect under a charter. And it's really because citizens of New York and the government and here in New York City really understand that this is an important issue that impacts many people. And we're one of the few minute municipalities that actually has an office solely dedicated to providing support for survivors of intimate partner violence and gender based violence.
Karen Ortman [00:03:56] I would have to say, given my experience and in law enforcement, I would have to say that that seems pretty accurate. I don't know of many offices that that have dedicated this sort of resource to victims. Maisie, how prevalent is intimate partner violence? And do you have data that distinguishes the prevalence of enter inter intimate partner violence affecting college students as compared to non-college students?
Maisie Breit [00:04:22] Yeah. So this statistic that we most often use in our trainings is from the Center for Disease Control, the CDC, and we say that intimate partner violence in its most severe forms affect a third of women and a quarter of men. And so those severe, most severe forms are rape, physical violence and stalking. So it doesn't actually even include a lot of the coercive forms that Tracey was alluding to, which are just as common and just as impactful. So it's a huge portion of the population. And like almost as many men as it is women, which is often a surprise to people. And then in terms of college students, say a U.S. Department of Justice has said that their research says that women between the ages of 16 and 24 actually experienced the highest rates of anyone per capita. So that like youth age group is most vulnerable. And then furthermore, 21 percent of college students report experiencing dating violence from a current partner and 32 percent have experienced it from a previous partner. And those statistics are from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 2007.
Karen Ortman [00:05:32] Why do you think that age group. You said it was 18 to 24, 16. So we're saying that this actually happens in high school. Starts in high school.
Maisie Breit [00:05:50] Yeah. There's actually a really wonderful branch of our office called the Healthy Relationships Training Academy that does training similar to what I do for adults. But for students, because. Yeah. Dating violence absolutely happens with young people. And a lot of this sort of behaviors that we learn and social norms that we're taught perpetuate these dynamics and the belief systems and belief in violence, solving problems and all of the sort of smaller reasons are, I guess bigger reasons that are the root of abuse. So, yeah, it is it is something that very vastly affects young people. And also that's a great lead into the other point I want to make, which is that that's probably because young people experience oppression based on their age. Right? Like they're a vulnerable population. They hold a marginalized identity by virtue of being young. And that is true for a number of different people who hold marginalized identities. And that statistic I gave you separates men and women, but it would be even more stark if we were looking at things like race and class and immigration status. And that when we take into account those marginalized identities, you can see even more clearly how vulnerable those populations are, and our experience, higher rates of intimate partner violence by virtue of the dehumanization that is perpetrated by society and systems.
Karen Ortman [00:07:24] So you spoke of the academy that goes into schools, what's that called?
Maisie Breit [00:07:29] Our Healthy Relationships Training Academy. And they're also part of the training team at the mayor's office to end domestic and gender based violence.
Karen Ortman [00:07:37] OK. So they go into area high schools in New York City?
Maisie Breit [00:07:40] They also receive requests. So they go wherever they're requested. And they do trainings for young people and they're like a little more fun and interactive than ours. Theoretically, I think ours are good, but on things like consent, healthy relationships, tech abuse and that, yeah, they work specifically with students.
Karen Ortman [00:07:59] Do they travel outside of New York?
Maisie Breit [00:08:00] Not as of yet. I think we have our mandate requires us to be in New York.
Karen Ortman [00:08:06] OK. What a valuable resource to the state, actually.
Sabah Fatima [00:08:11] And also to the youth, too. Can you provide examples of forms of abuse that are less obvious, but still of concern and worthy of discussion for the benefit of our listeners, Tracey?
Tracey Downing [00:08:24] Sure. I think as technology sort of capacity expands, there are many different forms of abuse that happen through technology in terms of stalking, using technology to stalk a partner. Nonconsensual pornography, right? Threatening to share intimate images that were shared within the context of the relationship. And in fact, stalking is it impacts youth at a much higher rate. The CDC again has statistics around stalking that demonstrate that stalking often first appears in young adult intimate partner relationships with more than half of female stalking victims. That's fifty two point six percent and almost half of male stalking victims, forty four point five percent experiencing stalking before the age of 25 between the ages of 18 and 24. And they actually experience the highest rates of stalking. And that can be in really subtle ways. It can be isolating the person from their friends and family. Right. Extreme jealousy, saying things like you're friends are no good for you. They don't know what's best for you. And using extreme jealousy to really keep that person away from their family and their community. And then also using technology to keep track of where the person is. Right? There's a lot of geo tagging and things like that. And or there could be unexpectedly showing up at your place of work or outside your classroom or at home. You know, repeated conduct is quite common in terms of abuse. And so there's a lot of overlap between different types of abuse. So using technology and stalking and gaslighting, making the person believe that this is all their fault or that they're going that they're crazy. Right.
Karen Ortman [00:10:26] Is that what gaslighting is?
Tracey Downing [00:10:26] Yes. I mean, I don't I don't know the exact definition I. Yeah. Maisie, probably.
Maisie Breit [00:10:32] I love talking about it with guests, I think, because the etymology of that where it is so crazy. But yes, it's like Tracey said, it's like making someone lose touch with their sense of reality or think that they're crazy. And it comes from like an early 20th century play that was later made into a movie where I hope I'm getting this correct. A husband and wife live together. The husband goes upstairs and kills someone in the apartment above them and then proceeds to continue going up there to like, I believe, steal things and loot the house. And when he goes upstairs, he turns the gas light on. And that causes the gas light- because this is early 20th century- to dim in his apartment where his wife is. And she is like, ‘why are our lights dimming?’ And his response is, ‘what are you talking about? You're making that up. That's not happening.’ It’s fascinating.
Tracey Downing [00:11:26] And actually, with the use of things like nest cameras and using climate control or tracking. What’s going on in the fridge. A lot of that has been used to also gaslight and make people feel like they're you know, they're going crazy because this person knows exactly what they're doing at all times. Right. We have a colleague who. She's a former prosecutor. And she tells us she talks about this case where this woman really thought she was going crazy. She said, I don't understand how my partner- they were separated. They didn't live together. My partner knows everything I'm doing all the time shows up. There's no way they could possibly know. And what the partner had actually done. And she found when she was vacuuming, she moved the couch and the partner had plugged in a phone and set it to answer automatically after three rings. And then it would just- and it was set to silent and it would answer. And then the person could listen to any conversations that were happening in the living room. So there are many, many I mean, people who use abuse are pretty smart when it comes to ways to track and manipulate.
Sabah Fatima [00:12:49] My God, that is shocking. That's good to know that I can be aware of that now. There is a multitude of victim resources in New York City. How does the mayor's office distinguish itself from other victim advocacy organizations that are also present in New York City?
Tracey Downing [00:13:07] Yeah, I mean, I would say we really try to work collaboratively with different government agencies and community based organizations. And our role is to provide support, whether it's around training or actual support for people who are providing direct services. So I know in a different podcast you're going to hear about our family justice centers, but our family justice centers are just really briefly are basically a one stop shop for people who are experiencing intimate partner violence and gender based violence. And what that it's we have partners on site from different community based organizations around the city. And the goal is to really make it easier for people who need different kinds of services. So whether it's immigration or Family Court issues or it's co-located with the district attorney's office or if the person wants to actually report the crime, it's all in one place. Right, prior to the family justice centers, people had to go to a lot of different places to get these services.
Karen Ortman [00:14:10] I have a question. So you just you spoke of immigration issues. I know that after speaking with several organizations who also provide services for people who have immigration issues, why would somebody go to one organization over the other?
I just want to make sure that our listeners understand and have a straight line to the most responsive agency that can help them. So how do how do- how would a listener know to go to report to one agency over the other or seek the resources of one agency over another?
Tracey Downing [00:14:49] I mean, it really depends on what the listeners comfortability is. People have had different experiences, right? If someone is undocumented, they may feel that if they get systems involved, that that's going to have a negative impact. Right. They maybe have fear that they'll be deported. Right. And often in the context of intimate partner violence, the abusive partner will use that as a way to keep the person in the relationship. Right. Threats of them being deported or if the abusive partner is the person who is earning the money, maybe, you know, supporting the household. If that person were to be deported, then the other person who's experiencing abuse wouldn't have any form of income. So these agencies, these different agencies can provide support. And like I said, it really depends on the level of comfortability. I'll talk a little bit later on about our portal, NYC Hope, which people can access and literally can put in. You know, what borough, what language they're comfortable in, what issue they're seeking services in. And it will pull up all these different not just our family justice centers, but different community based organizations. So, like I said, our family justice centers are co-located with district attorneys offices. People may not feel comfortable going into a law enforcement environment. And it may be they may be more comfortable going to somewhere closer to home.
Karen Ortman [00:16:11] Would it be accurate to say that anybody listening who might be undocumented, who might be the victim of a crime, who might be a member of marginalized member of the community, can go to any of these resources and not worry about not getting serviced because they're undocumented? They're a member of the marginalized community, they can get help. Is that true?
Tracey Downing [00:16:36] Absolutely, that’s true. And people can access services at the Family Justice Center as regards regardless of their immigration status. And all services are free and confidential.
Karen Ortman [00:16:49] OK, good to know. Thank you for that.
Sabah Fatima [00:16:53] Maisie, can you discuss the myths that are associated with intimate partner violence that suggests excuses for this type of behavior?
Maisie Breit [00:17:00] Oh, yes, many. I mean, something that isn't an excuse, but I so want to mention quickly is the myth that this only affects women. People who experience abuse look or act or behave or present a certain way. And that first statistic we gave, right? Just almost as many men are impacted. And really that though the overarching lesson is that intimate partner violence can affect anyone. So that also translates into people who experience harm or causing harm don't necessarily present the way you expect them to. I mean, this is something that we talk about a lot when we're training service providers that like you might have clients who are really angry or really disassociated or really challenging for you to deal with, and that might make you less sympathetic or even like sort of diminish their credibility in your eyes, when those are extremely normal trauma responses that are really common and might make that sort of like extra step in your mind of recognizing your own biases is really important. But making sure that we all provide the same amount of support and the best services and believe people, no matter what they look like, how they behave. So that was sort of a beginning, myth. Yeah, of course. Another myth is that people who cause harm or use abuse have anger management issues and people who have there's actually a like a technical term for what it like a syndrome for what it is. When you have anger management that I'm not going to remember right now, it's like explosive, intermittent something disorder, which I think is a really cool name. However, those people which we say in trainings, who do they get angry at? And it's like anyone. And when does that happen? All the time. It is literally not controllable. So people who cause harm in intimate relationships actually have very good control over their anger. And it's usually targeted only at their intimate partner and often in private. So that sort of cancels out that myth. It's not about anger management or having an anger problem. And then another really common myth and common excuse. Right? Is that substances are drinking caused people to become abusive, which is something else I love talking about, because it becomes very clear that that's not true. When I say the figure about to say but so drinking or substances, they might not that we've ever experienced this, but maybe we have. They make you do things you've already been thinking about doing, right? They don't give you an idea you didn't have in the first place. Or make you suddenly like lose all sense of like what is right and what is wrong. We have all those cute phrases like “in vino veritas”, in wine, there is truth. But substances can escalate abuse. They can hide in the form. They could make abuse, turn physical if it hasn't already been so. And it can. Yeah, it can make it more severe. But it's usually in situations where there's abuse already taking place in other ways. It's not going to cause someone who isn't abusive to become so. But it is, it's really often used as an excuse. But yeah, and most of those instances there's covert forms or coercive forms of abuse going on. And that substance is just sort of like high end and mostly empower someone to act on the things that they wouldn't do necessarily when they're not under
Karen Ortman [00:20:52] So many of our listeners who are experiencing any form of abuse or are in a violent relationship who give the excuse to the offender:
“They did it because they were drunk. They did it cause they were high. They did it because they were angry.” You're saying that, “No, that thought was there in the first place and that only enhanced their ability to carry it out.”
Maisie Breit [00:21:11] Yeah. I mean, absolutely. The like the power and control dynamic was already there in the first place. And yes, it sort of gave them the opportunity to carry out. And I would also say that, you know, none of those things are the explanations are the roots of violence anyway. Like, we know that if we were having an intellectual conversation, we wouldn't say like drinking causes violence or like, I'm angry. So it's the belief that violence solves problems or the entitlement to sex or antiquated gender roles or belief that one partner should have power in a relationship. Those things cause violence. Right? But yes, but we hear that all the time.
Karen Ortman [00:21:50] Tracey and Maisy, if you could speak to a victim of intimate partner violence right now, what might you say to persuade them to talk to someone so they are not going through the abuse and trauma alone?
Tracey Downing [00:22:03] Yeah, I mean, that's a really good question. I think when you know someone who's experiencing abuse, if it's a friend or a family member, it can be really difficult to know what to say. Right. Obviously, the person's safety is paramount and they're the expert in their own lives. So you want to keep that in mind. You may think it's it's the best thing for them to leave the relationship at that time, but it may not actually be safe for them to leave. Right? Statistics have shown that people are at most risk for homicide when they leave the relationship, and that's because the partner has now lost control over this person. Right?
Karen Ortman [00:22:42] So in that situation, which what should someone do where they can't leave? But they need to ensure their own safety. How might they do that if they're alone?
Tracey Downing [00:22:51] So what I would say is that the first thing I would recommend is just start by believing, right? Understand that this person's experience may not be something that that is in your realm of reality, but that doesn't mean that it's not actually happening. Right. And you want to make sure that the conversation that you're having with the person is on is on their terms. Right. So as Maisy talked a little bit about trauma. Right. Remember that this person has experienced the trauma of intimate partner violence. And so their presentations may not be the way we would expect them to present. Right. It would be any number of ways. You want to listen actively and you want to listen without judgment. Right. You don't want to encourage the person to leave, but you want to give them resources that they can access when and if they're ready to access those resources. Right. So I would I would start by acknowledging the person's experience. You know, it sounds like you've been going through an incredibly painful time right now. And, you know, I'm here to listen to you and to provide support.
Karen Ortman [00:24:05] Is there a phone number that that person who's going through that trauma in that abusive relationship can call that is -I'm sure it's confidential- but that the offender won't be able to identify as the abused person seeking help. Is there a way that that somebody can call someone and their safety is still maintained?
Tracey Downing [00:24:35] Yeah, I mean, there's that there's the domestic violence hotline. And then for people who are more comfortable nowadays, just going online and searching, there's NYC Hope and NYC Hope actually has tips that you can take to make your phone and your computer safe. A whole page dedicated to ways to do that, but also to keep in mind that that may not be safe for the person, because if the person who uses abuse realizes that the person has deleted these ways for them to track, then it may have some -might escalate. All right. So you really want to think about that? I mean, the places like the Family Justice Center can really do comprehensive safety planning with the person. And safety planning is ongoing. It changes from day to day. Right. Depending on the person's situation. And what we may think is safe may not be safe for them. And so it's really important that when they're ready and not before, but when they're ready to access services, that they do some safety planning to make sure that they're kept safe during the process. Right.
Karen Ortman [00:25:45] And they can do that through the family justice center?
Maisie Breit [00:25:47] Can I add one thing? When Tracey said that, the first thing is, I believe you. And then I just wanted to highlight in your question the word persuade. And I would dissuade us from ever trying to persuade a survivor or someone who's coming to us for help of anything. Right. Like Tracey mentioned, you know, in when you're experiencing intimate partner violence, you've lost power, you've lost control and are like utmost task is to work to restore that power and control. And that means giving options. Right. Suggesting alternatives, but not ever saying this is what you should do or persuade or persuading them even to seek help or resources if that's not what they're ready for, let alone leaving their relationship.
Tracey Downing [00:26:39] I would also just add just some ideas of how to have these conversations right. You want to have you want to use supportive statements, right? So a lot of times people are experiencing abuse, blame themselves for the abuse that they're experiencing or their partners have blamed them for the abuse that they're experiencing. So you just affirming that this is not your fault, right? This is we're not you know, you're not experiencing this because of something you've done. Right. And anyone does this intimate partner violence can affect anyone in any community, any socioeconomic background. Right. And so this is not your fault. And how can I support you? Maybe, you know, maybe I have an idea of how I can support you, but you probably have a better idea of what you want from me right now. And I'm here to do whatever you need. Right. Then, you know, if it's something that you're bringing up to your friend, that you think that they may be experiencing abuse, how do you start that conversation? Maybe just asking a question or just saying- just expressing concern. Right. And so saying something along the lines of “I'm worried about your safety, right? What do you think we can do to help you feel safe?”
Karen Ortman [00:27:55] I think that's a great thing to say.
Tracey Downing [00:28:01] And then the other thing is to avoid victim blaming statements, right, and to avoid statements like, ‘Why would you let him treat you like that?’ ‘What did you do to make them so angry?’ Right. It's all victim blaming. ‘Why are you still with this person?’ There could be any number of reasons if someone stays chooses to stay in this relationship. Right. That we don't know about. So you don't ever want to say what? Just leave, right? That's what we automatically go to. Like, why don't why don't they just leave? But it's so complicated. There's any number of reasons.
Karen Ortman [00:28:36] Right. And if you say that, then you can be rest assured that person is not going to come to you for help because they're going to go elsewhere or nowhere.
Maisie Breit [00:28:44] And they're going to feel judged, right.
Sabah Fatima [00:28:46] Tracey and Maisy, is there anything you'd like to add about the mayor's office that we may not have asked already today?
Tracey Downing [00:28:53] Yeah, I mean, I would just say that to anybody who's experiencing abuse, that you don't have to do this alone, that there are many resources available when you're ready to access those resources and there are many different ways to access them. One is by calling the city's domestic violence hotline, which is 1-800-621-Hope. H-O-P-E. And then the other way, if you're not comfortable making phone call, the other way is to go online and to look at it at the Hope NYC portal. And that, like I said, that has numerous different resources based on what you're what you're looking for. And it's burrow specific.
Maisie Breit [00:29:33] Just to echo what Tracey said, that there are there are resources and that you're not alone and that we believe you and that this is the beginning of a conversation also. This podcast. But there's so much that is like lost that people don't understand about this issue and that they like this type of conversation and this education that we do, I hope, can somehow in the long term really make a difference.
Sabah Fatima [00:30:04] Absolutely. Thank you. And also thank you, Tracey and Maisy, for joining us for today's episode of You Matter. Yeah. Thank you so much, Tracey and Maisie, for joining us today.
Karen Ortman [00:30:14] If any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the wellness exchange. 212-443-9999. You can also get in touch with them. NYU’s Department of Public Safety and their victim services unit by calling 212-998-2222.
Sabah Fatima [00:30:35] For more podcasts like these, You can find us by searching for you matter on Apple podcasts or Google Play.