BY KATHRYN BAUMGARTNER
As of October 1, after almost 34 years of service, the Rockland Family Shelter is now officially the Center for Safety and Change.
Though there was a large amount of trust built up around the old name, Carolyn Fish, the Center’s executive director, explained at a ceremony on October 4 that the new name was necessary.
Abuse survivors shared that when the word shelter is used, it implies that if victims call the 24-hour hotline, they will be forced to leave their partners. This is not the case, as there are a variety of other services offered in addition to housing.
There has also been an expansion of these services, with more available now than when the organization began in 1979. For example, aside from its New City location, the agency now has office hours five days a week at the Martin Luther King Center in Spring Valley.
Proclamations were issued by Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and Legislative Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, declaring October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Rockland County. Both officials emphasized that it is not the name of the agency that counts, but the work behind the name.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski said that to end violence, preventative measures are needed, including teaching children that violence is not acceptable. Zebrowski stated, “We need to change [this behavior] at its most basic level.”
The Rockland District Attorney’s Office has joined the Center in trying to create change within the criminal justice system. Victims are often also called as witnesses in crimes, a traumatizing process, and more care and compassion is needed when handling cases of abuse. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe noted that his office will be announcing new projects within the next six to 12 months.
Governor Cuomo signed a bill on October 4 that changes the number of days a victim is allowed to stay at a shelter. Instead of a 90-day limit with a 45-day extension, once the bill is enacted, shelters will be able to house victims for up to 180 days. Fish recognizes this as a milestone because “both sides of the aisle realize this is needed to keep people safe.”
Donna Rabinowitz, a survivor of domestic violence, spoke on behalf of the Resource Council, a group of women who used the service during a time of need and have chosen to give back to others. Rabinowitz said, “We want to reach out and make the world a better place for other survivors.”
The Center’s education department was rededicated in honor of Lynn Sheinkin, former executive deputy director who passed away in August after a battle with cancer. It is now known as the Lynn Sheinkin Department for Education and Social Change.