Denim Day remembers a 1998 Italian Supreme Court case where an 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. The Chief Judge in the appeal overturned the case, arguing that, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”
Today, the Violence Intervention and Treatment Program at Wyckoff Heights Hospital is just one of the many support systems now subject to cuts as a result to the sequester that went into effect on March 1.
For example, the STOP Violence Against Women Program is expected to lose up to $412,000 in New York, eliminating service to nearly 1,600 victims each year.
“It (the sequester) is going to impact you as an employee, it’s going to impact the hospital and more importantly it’s going to impact women of domestic violence and victims and families of domestic violence,” said Evelyn Cruz, chief of staff for Congresswoman Nydia Velàzquez.
Cruz explained the importance of the Violence Against Women’s Act passed in February 2013, however looming sequestration cuts threaten communities who rely on those programs.
“We secured $420 million, but they’ve decided to cut it by $20 million and then cut another $9 million for family-centered services,” she said.
Dr. Ayana Maitlend, a patient experience navigator at Wyckoff Hospital, works closely with the community and victims of abuse to build a dialogue and open the lines of communication on a oft-ignored topic.
“Human beings are social animals,” Maitlend said. “In order to have a healthy individual, not only do their biological needs need to be met, but also their psychological and social needs as well.”
Maitlend said she hopes there is a solution to avoid any cuts to the program since they play a vital role in the community.
“If we start slashing budgets on things like that, we are continuing to victimize people who have already been victimized because we’re getting rid of those support systems that are absolutely necessary,” she said.
Councilwoman Diana Reyna joined Wyckoff Hospital to remember the victims of sexual abuse. She noted, “one in five women are raped some time in their life.”
“This is a month we must also recognize that there is ugliness and trouble for people that don’t know how to reach out and where to go,” Reyna said.
The City Council passed $3.6 million for programs like CONNECT NYC and the establishment of the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), as well as the Domestic and Other Violence Emergencies (DOVE) program, and Reyna stressed the importance of open communication to make them known and available.
“If we fund these organizations and women don’t know how to access them, or more importantly know they exist, then we haven’t done our job,” she said. “Together we have to start spreading the information, making it public.”