Unity House’s Domestic Violence Services program celebrated DV Awareness Month with an Awareness Event and Art Show at The Arts Center for the Capital Region in downtown Troy. Sponsored by Albany Medical Center, the event showcased the artwork of survivors of domestic violence and honored the community collaboration needed to address the issue in our community.
Honored at the event were Barb Michalski of National Grid and Theresa Weinman of Albany Medical College. Gwen Wright, the NYS Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, helped open the event and reminded attendees of the startling facts of DV in our community: one in four people will become a victim of domestic violence.
Ms. Wright also spoke of how offenders adapt to the times, such as abusers’ misuse of technology to control or harm someone. And she spoke of the need to use an evidence-based assessment tool to identify partner abuse cases deemed to be at high risk for lethal violence. Unity House is one of only two awardees in NY State to receive funding for a Lethality Assessment Program. With this funding, the Unity House DV staff of trained professionals can further partner with Troy Police, Rensselaer County Probation and the county District Attorney’s Office to create a multi-disciplinary team to identify and address high-risk cases where the victim is a high risk of being killed. With the goal of increasing victim safety, these cases are then targeted for intensified domestic violence prevention services and strategic criminal justice involvement.
For many attendees, the statistics were sobering facts about domestic violence. Even more powerful was the artwork spread throughout the room. Surrounded by paintings, drawings and poems by survivors of domestic violence, it was hard not to feel inspired. At the heart of it all is the collaboration. This was clearly illustrated in a small alcove dedicated to the work of STEM. The photographs showed runners who participate in Striving through every Mile or STEM for short. STEM is a group that works to empower victims of domestic violence through the sport of running. The group works closely with area DV shelters where residents are invited to join a Couch to 5K type of program where one can challenge oneself to running, all with a great support team. Cat, a woman new to running, proudly pointed out her face among the pictured runners and practically glowed with confidence as she described the feeling of completing in a race.
At the end of a wonderful evening, everyone headed out. From the sidewalk, one last look behind showed that the upper floors of The Arts Center were aglow. In the dark night, one could really appreciate The Breathing Lights project. The slow rhythm of the glowing lights made the buildings seem alive. A fitting ending to a lovely evening where we were reminded that we live and work in a great community.
Unity House is grateful to the many community partners who help meet the needs of victims of domestic violence. Special thanks to our sponsor, Albany Medical Center, and The Arts Center of the Capital Region for the wonderful venue and all who made for a wonderful evening.