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York College hosts domestic abuse summit

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"I'm a victim of abuse and a relationship," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used for her safety. "The more information you know, the better you're able to handle the situation."

Such was the goal of the free conference, The Summit on Domestic Violence, which was hosted by the Women's Center and Counseling Center at York.

"Most people don't know their rights," Women's Center Director Jean Phelps said of abuse victims. "I'm always getting calls. They're having these issues of 'Where can I go for help?'"

More than 100 people attended the summit, but Phelps later said "if we're able to help one person, then it's worth it for all of us to be here."

For years York College has hosted a separate event on domestic violence begun by former Borough President Claire Shulman and carried on by her successor. But that gathering is normally held on a Thursday, and last year Phelps and her colleague Brunilda Almodovar decided to hold an event on Saturday so more community members could attend.

This year the summit included four workshops comprised of discussions about protections within the legal system for victims, dating violence and other abuse suffered by young adults, abuse against men and the effect of abuse on children.

Phelps said domestic violence "strikes all economic statuses and ethnicities" but added that while treatment approaches are the same for different races, those coming from different countries sometimes require specially tailored efforts.

There are a number of advocacy and counseling groups in Queens focused on a specific language or ethnic group, Phelps said. At the summit, representatives of more than 20 support agencies set up tables to provide information on finding services.

As a jumping off point, Phelps advised victims in non-emergency situations to call 311, the phone number for city services; Queens Legal Service, with offices in Long Island City and South Jamaica; or the borough president's Task Force on Domestic Violence.

Referring to the support agencies during his opening remarks, York College President Robert Hampton said "my goal, like your goal, is to put us out of business." Hampton, who has been on the job for 10 months, has spent his academic career researching domestic violence.

Thanks to Hampton's connections, York College will host a national conference on domestic violence in August. That will be followed by the borough president's annual forum in October.

The events are designed to help women such as the 40-year-old who attended Saturday.

"Most women are in abusive relationships because they think there's nowhere else to go, that there's no help available, that they're afraid," she said. She is still trying to completely break away from her relationship.

To other victims, she advised: "Pay attention to the warning signs, because they're there. Most of the time your conscience tells you that's not the right thing."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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