The second annual ceremony aimed to raise awareness about a problem that often goes overlooked, and one that is often not talked about. According to the Center for Disease Control, domestic violence is considered an epidemic and a public safety issue.
The event was launched last year with Women and Work, a free, 15-week program run by Carmella Marrone, which aims to help survivors of domestic violence rebuild their lives. The program got its start in 1998 and is based at Queens College. It has helped over 1,600 women by offering them life and job training skills.
“One-third of all women coming through Women and Work are domestic violence victims,” Marrone said. “It's hard for people to grasp the reality of domestic violence if they haven't been exposed to it, but I will say that someone you know or someone you love is affected even if you don't know it yet.”
The Shine the Light on Domestic Violence ceremony is part of a month-long campaign in partnership between Queens College and the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) to raise awareness on what is now known as a “national epidemic.”
The campaign, known as “Turn New York State Purple,” is running all through the month of October. The campaign is not only raising awareness but also helping to provide resources and assistance for victims.
The ceremony featured one domestic violence survivor who shared her story. It also honored Queens Assistant District Attorney Joyce Smith in recognition of her work on behalf of domestic violence survivors and her commitment to the community. Smith, a Hollis native, has worked with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown for 14 years.
“It is humbling because these are the women who should be recognized,” Smith said. “For me it's an honor to have our work appreciated because we often feel no one understands the struggle from our side of things, but at the same time I must shine the light back on them because they're the survivors.”
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky was also present at the ceremony and was presented with a purple bracelet made by the survivors who train at Women and Work. Stavisky has long been an advocate for tougher domestic violence legislation.
“She has worked hard to strengthen the laws that revolves around domestic violence and to protect the rights of domestic violence survivors,” said Marrone.
Speaking on the trial of Howard Beach woman Barbara Sheehan, who was acquitted last Friday of murder charges for killing her husband in a hail of 11 bullets, Stavisky said, “her trial really began 17 years ago.”
“What made it more difficult was the fact that her husband was a retired police officer and it became very difficult for her,” she said. “Unfortunately violence is not the answer, but she felt that there were no other options, and there are other people out there in similar situation. She is not alone.”
Stavisky noted that the immigrant community is especially vulnerable, as well as college-aged women.
“We're here not to curse the darkness but to light the candle. And the light that will shine from the Clock Tower here will be a beacon to everyone that this is a welcoming community,” Stavisky said.
According to the OPDV, New York State domestic violence courts handled more than 23,800 cases of domestic violence in 2010. According to the OPDV's domestic violence annual report, New York has also experienced an increase in indicators of domestic violence from 2007 to 2010.
Also according to the report, the number of intimate partner homicides declined 19 percent last year, but as they have decreased statewide the total number of domestic homicides, which includes those committed by other family members, rose 10 percent last year.
Victims or individuals who know of victims are urged to call (800) 621-HOPE for 24-hour help in over 150 languages.