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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

When abuse is a killer: Boro women at higher risk

As the city launches a massive anti-domestic violence campaign, Brooklyn women are much more likely to be killed by an abusive partner than women citywide, the Daily News has learned.

The average annual murder rate of women killed by their boyfriends or husbands in the borough was 1.5 deaths per 100,000 women, according to the most recent city Health Department data.

Citywide, the rate of such tragic killings during the same three-year period, 2001 to 2003, was 1 per 100,000 women.

"The risk for death due to intimate partner violence is 50% higher in Brooklyn than the citywide average," said city researcher Catherine Stayton.

Women living in central Brooklyn and East New York faced the highest risk, officials said.

In a related study, health officials found that women in Flatbush’s 11226 zip code – home to large Haitian and Caribbean immigrant communities – faced the most danger.

While domestic violence is a society-wide scourge, immigrant women are at high risk because they are isolated by language and legal status.

"I see it on the street, a woman being slapped inside a car, a man hitting a woman on the sidewalk," said Gisele Josme, who founded the Haitian Centers Council’s domestic violence program. "It’s everywhere."

The zip code rankings looked at numbers of deaths between 1995 and 2004 in Brooklyn only.

In Flatbush, 14 women were killed by their partners over the 10-year period, compared to the 153 women killed borough-wide, and 407 citywide.

Communities hit the hardest by domestic violence killings in Brooklyn during the decade health officials studied include its poorest: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Clinton Hill, East New York, Prospect Heights and Williamsburg.

Brookdale Hospital paramedic Daniel Order described a Bedford-Stuyvesant case he responded to before Christmas in which a woman was bleeding heavily after being attacked by her partner with a broken bottle.

"Her eyes were pretty much [swollen] shut," Order said.

Nonetheless, she was reluctant to go to the hospital.

"You could tell she was afraid of what could happen," said Order, who volunteers as a domestic violence coordinator for the Brooklyn-based advocacy group Make The Road By Walking.

As Mayor Bloomberg announced a $500,000 citywide ad campaign against domestic violence last week, health officials launched a public awareness campaign aimed at four of the worst-hit Brooklyn zip codes: Flatbush’s 11226; Bedford-Stuyvesant/Clinton Hill’s 11216; Crown Heights’ 11213 and East Flatbush’s 11225.

The $185,000 Bystander Campaign is targeted at witnesses of the abuse and urges them to get involved in a safe way.

Coordinated by Connect, a Manhattan-based domestic violence education group, thousands of posters in English, Creole and Spanish are going up in local shops, community centers and on bus shelters.

The Health Department printed 100,000 fact cards to send to witnesses or victims who can call the campaign’s help line – (212) 683-1396 – for information.

Valerie Bell-Bey, a family court lawyer who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said she called Connect last week after watching an ugly confrontation on her block.

Bell-Bey left her home at 10 p.m. on a recent weeknight because she heard screams from a woman next door – but she was stumped when she saw the couple’s roommates chatting on the sidewalk outside, waiting for the fighting inside their home to end.

"In the courtroom with my clients, I know the law," she said. "It’s very different when you go out in the community. There is nothing to protect you at all; it’s scary."