Panel Sheds Light on Domestic Abuse in NYC

May 30, 2010 Updated: May 30, 2010

NEW YORK—In light of increasing media coverage surrounding high-profile cases of domestic abuse, a panel of experts sat down last Thursday to provide a deeper understanding of the issue, particularly among youth.   

“It’s hard to say whether teen violence is going up, or if awareness [is increasing],” said Stephanie Nilva, executive director for Day One, a workshop program on domestic violence in New York City schools.

Nilva noted that it’s harder for teens and young adults to identify domestic violence.

“They don’t have the framework of adults, their personalities are still forming,” she said.

Nilva shared that both girls and boys have been responsive to the preventative information. Her workshops include ways to identify an abusive partner and to focus on accountability.

“We see light bulbs go off. We’ve had boys and girls come up and say ‘I think I’m not treating my partner right,’” she said.

Panellist Dan Goodman, a program coordinator for CHOICES, a domestic violence program for batterers in the South Bronx, also placed a strong emphasis on accountability. Goodman said that a common theme among the men he works with is that they see themselves as the victims.

“They deny, minimize, and blame. They don’t take accountability,” he said.

Part of Goodman’s program puts batterers in crisis situations, so as to teach them how to better handle conflict situations with their partners.

“We are interested in providing safety of the true victims,” Goodman said.

Despite the common characteristics that many abusers share, the lead contributor to the New York model for batterer programs Phyllis B. Frank said that “you can’t pick out a batterer.”

“Rich, poor, any age, educated or not …, any man can be abusive,” she said.

Frank also noted that efforts tackling domestic violence have come a long way over the span of her 30-year career in the field, but she also emphasized that the problem “defies simple answers.”