October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is a serious violent crime that includes both physical and emotional abuse. It is frequently hidden from public view. Many victims suffer in silence, afraid to seek help or not knowing where to turn. The traumatic effects of domestic violence also extend beyond the abused person, impacting family members and communities. Children often witness the violence or become victims themselves. Stalking is a common and very dangerous tactic used by perpetrators of domestic violence, and can pose challenges for victims seeking help.

As part of the effort to stop this horrific crime, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women  has awarded $32 million to municipalities, courts, and victim service providers nationwide through its Improving the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program. Opportunities for Otsego was one of 54 organizations to receive this grant.

Through the support of OVW, the Violence Intervention Program of Opportunities for Otsego will establish a Victim Service and Support Center in Cooperstown. Services offered through the newly established center will improve victim safety, access to services, and enhance criminal justice responses in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault in Otsego County.

Initiatives funded through the $448,000 grant include appointing a full-time victim advocate to provide immediate legal advocacy and support services on the campus of the Otsego County Courts; training county, town and village judges, attorneys, and court-based personnel on enforcement of orders of protection, firearms provisions, and effective responses to violence against women; and skype-like language interpretation services. Funding will also expand the pool of certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners to provide trauma-informed care and handle evidence collection for local victims of sexual assault.