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Vera House programs, activities bring new light to domestic violence awareness

— More than 8,100 people have called to report domestic disturbances this year in Syracuse, with more than 1,500 people charged in related incidents.

These numbers come at the end of the city’s recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, showcasing the services provided by the Syracuse Area Domestic & Sexual Violence Coalition.

“The numbers may overwhelm you, and they’re meant to,” said Rick Trunfio, Syracuse Area Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition co-chair and first chief assistant district attorney in Onondaga County. “It shows the pervasiveness of the crime.”

In the past year, the amount of sexual and domestic abuse charges, homicides and calls have decreased, according to statistics provided by the Syracuse Police Department in the coalition’s annual report.

By year’s end, if the numbers do increase, Trunfio says it’s not because violence is becoming more prevalent.

“The good news is I don’t think [domestic violence] is getting worse,” he said. “Our numbers may go up because our response is getting better.”

The coalition’s response to the issue, which includes numerous agencies, activities and programs, has been enhanced in the past year.

By the numbers

Answered domestic violence calls

2010: 10,416

2011: 8,095

Charged domestic violence suspects

2010: 1,915

2011: 1,555

Charged sexual offense suspects

2010: 160

2011: 99

Domestic Violence homicides

2010: 3

2011: 1

The 12 Men Model, a program by Vera House, has been used to enhance men’s understanding of violence and the role they may play in prevention. In April, the Vera House was awarded one of 23 grants in the nation to further this goal.

“Men need to change their attitudes,” said Chauncey Brown, the men’s outreach coordinator at Vera House. “It’s not just what I do when others are watching, it’s what I do when no one is watching.”

An accountability program for offenders has also been increasingly offered, serving predominantly men. Women make up 6 percent of those who are currently serviced through the program.

White ribbon campaigns, education programs and the annual Clothesline Project were all used to bring, and keep, domestic and sexual violence in the spotlight in 2011, as well.

“In order to stop sexual abuse, we have to stop being silent about it,” said child sexual abuse survivor Jen*.

*The last name has been removed to provide privacy to the survivor.

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