Orange County has joined Fearless! Hudson Valley Inc. to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), which is acknowledged each October.
“Now, more than ever, we must continue our efforts to raise awareness about domestic violence,” Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said. “It was already an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have seen a tremendous spike in domestic violence incidents during this public health emergency.”
Fearless! has seen a 42.55 percent increase in domestic violence calls during COVID-19, according to Executive Director Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier. Fearless!, formerly known as Safe Homes of Orange County, received 2,019 calls from Apr. 1 to Aug. 31 of 2019 and 3,906 calls during the same period this year.
“The pandemic did not cause domestic violence, but we must understand that the necessary health measures that were put in place seven months ago, many of which are still in place today, create significant barriers for victims needing to access services, safety, and support,” Larrier said.
Kostyal-Larrier said abuse can take various forms, including physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, cyber, and financial.
On average, three women are killed every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. Since September 2004, 29 women have been killed by their husbands or intimate partners in Orange County, and two women are missing but presumed dead.
The Orange County Government Center has hosted the Clothesline Project with Fearless! for the last two years. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictions placed on the size of events, it was not held this year. The Clothesline Project is comprised of T-shirts handmade by survivors of domestic violence or in honor of someone who has been a victim of violence. It not only promotes awareness but also helps the healing process for victims and those whose loved one was murdered at the hands of the current or former intimate partner.
Fearless! will host a Facebook Live Clothesline Project events at 1 p.m. on its page, @fearlesshv, on Mon., Oct. 19, Thurs., Oct. 29 and Sat., Oct. 31. The County will host a dress down day fundraiser on Fri., Nov. 6 to support Fearless!
Fearless! provides free counseling, support groups, legal services, and other forms of support to victims of domestic violence, teen dating violence and human trafficking, and gives training to agencies, businesses, law enforcement, and individuals regarding domestic violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can call Fearless! 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 845-562-5340.
The Clothesline Project display at the Orange County Government Center last year.