Sen. Seward announces funds for Cortland domestic violence program

CORTLAND, N.Y. – Two state grants totaling $70,000 will go towards the YWCA of Cortland’s Aid to Victims of Violence (AVV) program, New York State Sen. James Seward announced Thursday.

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Speaking outside the Cortland County Courthouse, Seward announced the grants during a kick-off event for Domestic Violence Awareness month, which included a moment of silence and a balloon release in honor of victims and survivors of domestic violence.

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Advocates released purple balloons outside the Cortland County Courthouse Thursday afternoon to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

Linda Shutts, program director for Aid to Victims of Violence, says AVV provided services to more than 240 domestic violence cases and sheltered 28 adults and 20 children in 2014.

The agency also received more than 3,000 domestic violence calls to its 24-hour hotline, she said.

“Today, it is important to ask everyone to take a stand, because it takes many [people] to help empower victims to live their lives free from abuse,” Shutts said.

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From left, Linda Shutts, program director for the YWCA of Cortland's Aid to Victims of Violence program, State Sen. James Seward and Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

Seward worked to pass four bills focusing on the needs of domestic violence victims, one of which will allow victims to electronically file for orders of protection. The legislation will also protect victims from housing discrimination and allow them to testify via closed circuit television “to avoid courtroom intimidation by alleged abusers.”

State lawmakers have also passed the Domestic Violence Protection Act, also known as Brittany’s Law, to create a publicly accessible registry of all individuals convicted of a violent felony.

“Even though there’s been some progress made in combatting this very reprehensible crime, it’s clear that we have a long way to go,” Seward said. “Here locally, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that this is a problem right here in our own community.”

Cortland Police Chief Michael Catalano says as of Sep. 1, the police department has responded to more than 400 domestic violence calls, or roughly 2 calls per day.

“Long ago, the police department became a pro-arrest department, which means we don’t try to mitigate a domestic violence call,” Catalano said. “If it’s a type of call where we can make an arrest, we determine who the primary aggressor is and we make the arrest.”

If an officer is unable to make an arrest, the department will direct the victim to local support services, Catalano said.

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin read a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city.

Shutts said people can wear purple on Oct. 21 to show their support for victims of domestic violence.

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