Q&A: Combating Abuse in LGBTQ+ Communities
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity. However, studies show that those who identify as nonbinary or LGBTQ+ are likely to experience intimate partner violence at rates that are equal to or higher than heterosexuals. In this interview, Emmanuel DeJesus, a social worker in the Victim Services Unit, discusses his commitment to minimize the risk of abuse and provide culturally competent services to LGBTQ+ survivors and other marginalized groups in Brooklyn.
Tell us about your role in the Victim Services Unit. Why are you passionate about providing services to vulnerable groups in our community?
I am a social worker who specializes in working with male victims, including those who identify as LGBTQ. I work with diverse populations, including survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and families of homicide victims. In my role, I provide victim support through a trauma-focused, victim-centered, and strengths-based approach.
I am very passionate about supporting victims of crime because crime can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, or socio-economic status. I also understand how complex and confusing the criminal justice system can be. I am proud to provide any type of support that I can to ease the stress and discomfort for these victims. In this role, I am also privileged to provide training focused on male victims and survivors of crime in addition to training focusing on the LGBTQ community and the criminal justice system.
What can we do to better serve and support LGBTQ+ survivors?
I truly believe that preventative services are critical in disseminating information that can serve and support individuals before they find themselves in these types of relationships. Ensuring that communities across our city have information about services for these victims is crucial for them to know how to seek help and support.
What are some barriers to seeking services?
Some barriers that we have been working to combat within this community includes language barriers and stigmas against LGBTQ individuals. I am a native Spanish speaker, which has helped immensely when working with LGBTQ individuals who only speak Spanish and are able to share their experiences in their native language, without having to use language line. As someone who identifies as gay, I too have experienced stigma because of my sexuality. This has helped me to relate to victims in a greater capacity and enable a greater sense of rapport with victims. Tearing down these barriers has been a priority in my work and in my personal life.
Why is LGBTQ training important?
Providing LGBTQ training across Brooklyn, including social service agencies and law enforcement, is essential in combating biases and prejudices that exist within even those who are supposed to be protecting and supporting victims.
What’s your message to LGBTQ+ individuals who are experiencing domestic violence?
I would like to reiterate that you are a survivor. No matter where you are in your process, there are services and support available for you. One of the best parts of this job is that we are always available to assist with supporting survivors no matter how much or how little time has passed.
If you are experiencing domestic violence in our borough and need help, call the Brooklyn DA’s Domestic Violence Bureau at 718-250-3300 or New York City’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673). In an emergency, call 911.
Know Your Rights: Cyber Sexual Abuse
Technology has given abusers new ways to harass, intimidate and inflict harm on their victims. One way that an abuser may try to extend their control is by threatening to post intimate photos or videos of the victim on the internet. But what happens when an abuser follows through on that threat? In this Q&A, Jessica Morak, a Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families and co-chair of the New York City Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force, discusses how survivors can fight back against nonconsensual pornography.
What is nonconsensual pornography and what role does technology play in this?
Nonconsensual pornography is a form of gender-based violence called cyber sexual abuse.
Nonconsensual pornography most often refers to the nonconsensual dissemination, or threat of dissemination, of intimate photographs or videos shared without the survivor’s consent. These can be intimate photos or videos that the survivor shared with the abuser during the course of the relationship, those recorded or taken without the survivor’s knowledge, or can be fake photos or videos, otherwise known as “spoofs,” that the abuser themselves created.
Nonconsensual pornography is just one type of cyber sexual abuse. One other type that we often see is when abusers use dating apps or social media platforms to create fake accounts in survivors’ names. Once created, abusers then invite individuals to solicit the survivor for sexual acts, often times by giving out personal and identifying information.
There are many different forms of cyber sexual abuse, but all feature an abuser using technology to exert power and control over the survivor. For this reason, cyber sexual abuse falls under the umbrella term of technology-facilitated abuse. This term appropriately describes the behavior, as it is the abuser’s choice to utilize routine and ordinary technology in a specific and intentional way – to cause harm to another individual.
Source: Cyber Civil Rights Initiative
What are some misconceptions about ‘cyber sexual abuse’ or ‘revenge porn’?
The term “revenge porn” in and of itself illustrates a huge misconception about this form of abuse. “Revenge porn” is a term that has become popular when referring to the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images. Webster’s dictionary defines the word revenge as “to avenge (oneself or another) usually by retaliating in kind or degree” or “to inflict injury in return for.” Therefore, use of the word “revenge” would suggest that the survivor deserved to have their photos or videos shared without their consent as payback for some past wrong. This is nonsense and victim-blaming in its most classic form. The nonconsensual sharing of, or threat to share, intimate videos or photographs is gender-based violence that no one deserves.
People are often confused about what “nonconsensual” in the term “nonconsensual pornography” refers to. The “nonconsensual” refers to the dissemination, or threat of dissemination, of the photographs or videos to others without the survivor’s consent. It does not have anything to do with whether or not the photograph or video was consensually created or taken. If an individual A consensually shares a nude photograph with their partner, B, it is still nonconsensual pornography if B disseminates, or threatens to disseminate, that photograph without A’s consent. It is completely irrelevant that A consented to sharing the photograph with B; the fact that A did not consent to B disseminating to others means that B has engaged in nonconsensual pornography, cyber sexual abuse and gender-based violence.
Another huge misconception when it comes to nonconsensual pornography and other types of cyber sexual abuse is its effect on the survivor. People often react to narratives of this type of abuse with a certain amount of levity and humor, questioning, “what the big deal is” or claiming that the conduct “is just a joke.” But the harm is real, tangible and well documented. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative:
- 93% of victims reported they had suffered emotional distress as a result of being victimized;
- 82% of victims reported significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning due to being a
- 51% of victims reported having had suicidal thoughts as a result of being victimized.
For these very real survivors, cyber sexual abuse is more than just a “big deal.” It is a debilitating type of gender-based violence that has affected them personally, professionally and emotionally.
(L-R) Rebecca Dince-Zipkin, Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, and Jessica Morak, discuss resources available to student survivors of gender-based violence at the Third Annual Symposium on Campus Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence.
What civil or criminal actions can you take if nude photos or videos have been shared without your consent?
If someone has disseminated your intimate photographs or videos without your consent or threatened to disseminate your intimate photographs or videos, you can report this conduct to the police. It is both a state and local crime
(in New York City, Suffolk, and Nassau counties) for which the perpetrator could face arrest and criminal prosecution, often resulting in the survivor being issued an order of protection through Criminal Court.
If you have an eligible relationship with the perpetrator, i.e. you were formerly or are currently married, related by blood or marriage, have a child in common, or were involved in an “intimate relationship,” you could also file for an order of protection in Family Court based upon the cyber sexual abuse.
Additionally, victims of nonconsensual pornography can initiate civil cases (i.e. lawsuits for money damages) against perpetrators. All of these legal options are not mutually exclusive and survivors can choose one, or more than one, of these legal avenues as their pathway to safety and justice.
Is there anything that survivors can do to get intimate photos or videos removed from the internet?
Many websites have mechanisms allowing you to report the photograph or video that was disseminated without your consent. For example, Pornhub, a website that many survivors’ have unfortunately discovered their intimate photographs and videos on, has a specific form that survivors can fill out. Most of these mechanisms can be located by accessing the website’s Help or Support page.
Survivors can also initiate the process to have a takedown notice sent to an internet service provider, requesting that the provider remove specific material because it constitutes copyright infringement (if you took the photograph or recorded the video, you can argue that you have a copyright to it).
Under New York State law, a survivor may also be able pursue an action for a court order against a website that is hosting the material through a special proceeding, pursuant to NY CLS Civ. R. §52-b.
What’s your message to those struggling with cyber sexual abuse?
My message to those struggling with cyber abuse is this: You are not alone. There is an incredible amount of resources available to survivors of cyber sexual abuse. I would encourage anyone who is experiencing this type of abuse or other forms of gender violence to seek help if it is safe to do so. You can call the Sanctuary for Families Legal Helpline at 212-349-6099, Extension 246, where you will be connected with an attorney who can assist you with legal issues, including those related to cyber sexual abuse. We know that this abuse can be difficult to talk about, but you do not have to suffer through this trauma alone. We see you. We hear you. We support you. We believe you and we know this is not your fault.
What to Expect at Trial
Being a victim of a crime can be a traumatic and confusing experience. If a case is brought against your alleged perpetrator in Criminal Court, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, scared or anxious. Understanding the court process can help you to feel more comfortable participating in the justice system.
Does every case go to trial?
No. The majority of cases do not go to trial. In fact, most cases are resolved by a plea of guilty. If a case does go to trial, a jury of everyday citizens will decide the verdict. A guilty verdict is never a guarantee. Additionally, the process itself may cause both emotional and mental stress on the victim. Thus, a careful analysis is done in each case to assess whether the case should be taken to trial or whether a plea agreement should be reached.
What happens if a case goes to trial?
The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) assigned to the case will have likely already discussed this case at length with you as part of their initial and ongoing investigation. It can take many months, even over a year in some cases, for the case to reach the trial phase. Once the case is ready to go to trial, the ADA will reach out to witnesses and schedule a convenient time for trial preparation. It is important to remember that when a trial starts, witnesses need to be flexible with their schedules.
What kind of support is available to victims during the hearing and trial process?
The Brooklyn DA’s Office has a team of caring and compassionate social workers and advocates who are available to provide support throughout this process. They are known as the Victim Services Unit (VSU). They are experts in this field and will be able to provide not only guidance and emotional support, but also practical support, such as helping you file a claim to help cover costs resulting from being the victim of a crime, including but not limited to medical bills, counseling expenses, burial and funeral costs, and lost wages.
What can I expect if I am asked to testify during a trial?
There are three major components to testifying: Preparation, direct examination and cross examination. To prepare you for testimony, the ADA who will be trying the case will schedule an appointment for you to come into the office. Additional appointments are scheduled when necessary. During that time, the ADA will let you know what questions they anticipate asking you on the witness stand and what questions to expect from the defense attorney on cross examination. If there are any questions you don’t understand, or don’t know the answer to, that’s okay. Just let the ADA know, so that they can clarify their questions.
On the day that you’re scheduled to testify, you will be asked to wait outside the courtroom (usually in a witness room or at the DA’s Office), until the court is ready to hear your testimony. This can take some time, so come prepared to spend the day (i.e. bring reading material, a phone charger, snacks, water).
Once called to the witness stand you will be asked to take an oath to swear to tell the truth. This is referred to as “testifying under oath.” After you have been sworn in, the ADA will begin their questioning. This is called direct examination. Direct examination is an opportunity for the ADA to elicit testimony about what happened and submit any relevant evidence for the jury’s consideration.
Once the ADA has completed their direct examination, the defense attorney will begin their questioning. This is called cross examination. Cross examination is an opportunity for the defense attorney to ask you questions about what happened. After cross examination, the ADA will be permitted to ask you follow up questions if needed. This is called re-direct examination.
There are many rules of evidence that dictate what questions attorneys are permitted to ask witnesses. For example, you may want to tell the jury about something that happened before or after the incident occurred, the Judge will have to rule on whether it is relevant and/or permissible. In addition, the Judge may also ask you questions for clarification during your testimony.
What are some courtroom rules or guidelines that are important to be aware of during a trial?
Basically, follow the Judge’s instructions. Only answer the questions you are asked. Sometimes an attorney will object to a question. You must not answer that question until, and only if, the Judge “overrules” the objection. If the judge “sustains” the objection, you are not permitted to answer it. Try to speak clearly and project your voice so that you can be heard. Take your time and remember to breath. Remember that attorneys are human too, so they may incorrectly phrase a question. If you don’t understand a question being asked, simply let the court know and the attorney will rephrase the question. Once questioning by both the ADA and defense attorney is completed, the Judge will excuse you and you may leave the courtroom. Witnesses who have not yet testified are not permitted to observe the trial. This is to prevent a witness from being tainted by another person’s testimony. You also may not be permitted to sit in the courtroom after you’ve testified if there’s a chance you may be called to testify again.
Who will be in the courtroom?
One of the most common questions we get is “will the person who did this be there?” That is a good question, and the answer, in almost all cases, is yes. That is because each person accused of a crime, referred to as the defendant, has a Constitutional right to confront the witnesses against them. They will be seated at a table with their defense attorney. There will also be court officers to maintain safety and decorum both in the courtroom and in the courthouse. In addition, there will be a jury, seated in rows of seats next to the witness stand. There will be a court reporter transcribing everything that is said. There will be other court staff such as the Judge’s law secretary and court clerk. The ADA will be there and of course, the Judge, who will be presiding over the trial.
Finally, all courtrooms, unless ordered sealed by the Judge, are open to the public. Thus, sitting in the pews will be other people which may include family members and friends, other people who have cases on that day in that court, attorneys, law enforcement or members of the press.
Can I have anyone in there to support me when I testify?
Yes. You can have members of your family or friends present in the courtroom. In addition, if you choose, a counselor from VSU can accompany you to and from the DA’s Office and can be present in the courtroom when you testify.
What happens after the trial has ended?
After the ADA has called their last witness, they will “rest” their case. The defense can then present a case and call witnesses to testify. The defendant can also testify if he or she so chooses. Once the defense has called all their witnesses, they will also “rest.” Then both the ADA and the defense attorney make their closing arguments. This is known as summations. The Judge then charges the jury on the applicable laws. The jury is then sent to a private room to begin deliberations. There is no set time that a jury has to deliberate; they can take as long or as little time as they need. During that time, they may ask for testimony to be read back to them or to see items that have been admitted into evidence. Once the jury reaches a verdict, they send a note to the Judge. The case is re-called in the court part and the verdict is rendered or read out loud.
There are three possible outcomes. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the jury is considered “hung” and a mistrial is declared. If this happens, the case can be re-tried at a later date before a new jury.
If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then all the charges are dismissed and the case is sealed. The defendant is then free to leave. If the defendant was being held in jail on bail, the bail will be exonerated and the defendant free to leave unless they have holds on other criminal matters. If there was an order of protection in effect, that order is no longer valid. However, VSU counselors are still available to work with the victim to help safety plan and look for civil remedies when appropriate.
If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the case will be adjourned for a sentencing date. On that date the Judge decides what the sentence should be and sentences the defendant. This will be based on strict sentencing guidelines that determine the minimum and maximum sentence a person can receive based on the type of crime they’ve been convicted of and their criminal history. In some cases, a victim may choose to give a victim impact statement. This is an opportunity for the victim to tell the Judge and the defendant the impact their criminal actions had on their lives.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial, VSU and the assigned ADA are available to answer any questions and to help a crime victim access services. Keeping victims safe and informed is of utmost importance to the Brooklyn District Attorney. We will do our best to make this process trauma informed and manageable.
Tracey Downing is a Deputy Bureau Chief in the Domestic Violence Bureau, where she is responsible for supervising the prosecution of cases in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Previously, she handled serious felony domestic violence crimes as Senior Trial Attorney in the Domestic Violence Bureau and was the designated point person for all domestic violence crimes relating to strangulation. Tracey also provides training to law enforcement, attorneys, advocates and medical practitioners on strangulation, trauma-informed interviewing, nonconsensual pornography and stalking.
Last Updated: 5/19/2020
DA’S ACTION CENTER
The District Attorney’s Action Center is available to assist the people of Brooklyn with criminal justice matters such as domestic violence, child abuse, fraud, human trafficking, gun and illegal drug activity in their community and other crime-related or quality of life issues. Complaints can also be made anonymously. Trained specialists in the DA’s Action Center are available to evaluate complaints and determine the next step to resolve the matter.
DA’s Action Center Hotline: (718) 250-2340
VICTIM SERVICES & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
If you are suffering from abuse or intimate partner violence while being quarantined, require safety planning, shelter assistance, referrals or other services, help is available.
Victim Services Unit: (718) 250-3820 or VSU2@BrooklynDA.org
Brooklyn Family Justice Center: (718) 250-5113
New York City 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 621-HOPE (4673)
Safe Horizon 24/7 Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline: (212) 227-3000
***For emergencies, call 911.
How to Virtually Apply for a Civil Order of Protection in Family Court
All temporary orders of protections that have been issued by criminal and civil courts in NY have been extended until the next court date.
To file a temporary order of protection (when no arrest has been made):
- Email NYFCApplications@nycourts.gov or call 646-386-5299 to file a Family Offense petition and request an order of protection
- You will subsequently appear before a judge via Skype or phone
***For inquiries, call 646-386-5299 or email NYFCinquiry@nycourts.gov
We are still here to help sexual assault survivors and are working closely with hospitals to ensure that rape kits can be performed safely during this public health emergency.
If you are the victim of sexual assault and are seeking resources, we will continue to be here for you.
Special Victims Bureau: 718-250-3170
24-Hour NYPD Special Victims Division Hotline: 646-610-7272
Brooklyn Family Justice Center: 718-250-5113
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
Our Special Victims Bureau works in close partnership with the Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center. The Brooklyn CAC remains open and has developed a COVID-19 Response Protocol to ensure that all child victims and their families remain our top priority.
To report suspected cases of child abuse or maltreatment, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
Special Victims Bureau: 718.250.3170
Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center: 718.330.5400
The Human Trafficking Unit remains committed to holding accountable those who, through such means as psychological and physical coercion, beatings, extortion, starvation, confinement, and compelled drug use, have forced individuals (often young girls and women) into prostitution and instances of labor trafficking.
Report Incidents of human trafficking: (718) 250-2770
National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888)-373-7888
In addition to white-collar crimes, scams targeting immigrants and homeowners, wage theft and healthcare schemes, our Action Center’s Hotline is open to report scams related to COVID-19.
DA’s Action Center: (718) 250-2340
NYC311: Call 311 or (212) NEW-YORK
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to avoid coronavirus scams:
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
The Re-entry Bureau is available to connect individuals with emergency shelters, substance abuse treatment, health insurance enrollment, clothing assistance and other services. If you have a NYSID or DIN number, please include it in your request.
Re-entry Bureau: 718-250-4374 or Reentry@BrooklynDA.org
KCDA COMMUNITY RESOURCE EMPOWERMENT CENTER
Our Community Resource Empowerment Center is still available to assist with health insurance applications, mental health services, housing and referrals to community-based organizations. In addition, our community partner Brooklyn Perinatal Services will continue to process health insurance applications over the phone. To learn more, call 718-250-3995.
The Hate Crimes Bureau investigates and prosecutes crimes that are motivated, in whole or in substantial part, by a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of the victim, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.
Report bias-motivated crimes to our Hate Crimes Hotline: (718) 250-4949
ADDITIONAL SERVICES & RESOURCES
- During this difficult time, New Yorkers can access a range of mental health services by phone or online—regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status. Find FREE support here.
- New York State is partnering with Headspace, a global leader in mindfulness and meditation, to offer free meditation and mindfulness content for all New Yorkers at www.headspace.com/ny.
- New York State’s Office of Mental Health operates a COVID-19 Emotional Support Line at 1-844-863-9314. The Help Line provides free and confidential support, helping callers experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency.
- If you’re an older New Yorker feeling lonely or isolated, the Friendly Visiting program can connect you with a friendly volunteer to talk with over the phone. Call 212-Aging-Nyc (212-244-6469) and ask about the Friendly Visiting Program.
Remote Learning & Enrichment Resources
NYC Department of Education
To help students stay connected during emergencies, the DOE is lending internet-enabled iPads to support remote learning for students.
Visit https://coronavirus.schools.nyc/RemoteLearningDevices to request a device.
Additional resources via the DOE:
- Learn at Home information page
- Early Childhood Learning resource page
- Discover at Home resource page
- Academic Subjects resource page
- Amazing Educational Resources
- New York City is distributing FREE face coverings in parks across the city! Find out where you can get yours at http://nyc.gov/facecoverings
- If your work schedule was reduced as a result of the coronavirus and you are unable to pay your rent, you can apply for a Cash Assistance special grant request to get benefits for emergencies.
If you have an active Cash Assistance case, visit ACCESS HRA
- NYCHA residents that experience a loss of income may qualify for a rent reduction. Households that have experienced a complete income loss may qualify for the Zero Income Policy.
- Three free meals will be available daily for ALL New Yorkers in more than 400 Meal Hubs across the 5 boroughs. To find a location near you visit http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals or text
“NYC FOOD” to 877-877.
- One week of free groceries are available to all New Yorkers in five boroughs at the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) Nutrition Kitchens, in partnership with the Food Bank of NYC and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)
- Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guides
- COPO’s Halal Food Pantry is still open with COVID-19 safety measures in place. The food pantry is held every Friday from 1:30-4:30 PM. The senior shopping hours are every Friday from 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM. Please call 929-282-2766 to register. Visit https://copo.org/ to learn more
- The Salvation Army in Sunset Park is also offering emergency food pantry services Monday – Friday from 10 AM – 12 PM and hot grab and go meals on Tuesday and Thursday from 12 PM- 1 PM. Bring an ID to participate. To learn more, call (718) 438-1771.
- Local churches offering food pantries.
- New York State is waiving the 7-day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. Visit the
New York State Department of Labor website for more information.
Funeral Rites and Burial Assistance
- In order to ensure that those we’ve lost are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, the City signed an emergency rule to expand the number of low-income people who can receive burial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistance is available to everyone, regardless of immigration status, with proof of low-income status. For more information, visit the Help Now NYC website, call 929-252-7731, or email BurialServices@hra.nyc.gov for application assistance.
Resources for Immigrant Communities
- Many city services are available to everyone no matter what your immigration status is and regardless of your ability to pay, although other eligibility requirements may apply. Learn more HERE.
Resources for People with Disabilities
- The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has gathered information specifically to inform people with disabilities on the resources available to the population during NYC’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more HERE.
Resources for LGBTQ+ Communities
- On May 12, the NYC Unity Project in the NYC Mayor’s Office, in partnership with representatives from 15 city agencies and over 200 LGBTQ+ community partners across NYC, launched the NYC LGBTQ+ COVID-19 Guide. The guide includes LGBTQ+ affirming programs and services—both city and private/non-profit resources— still available during the COVID-19 pandemic include: mental health, physical health and wellness, and sexual health services; peer and community support; food assistance; legal services; housing and shelter; and financial/funding opportunities. Learn more HERE.
Resources for Seniors
- To prevent the spread of COVID-19, senior centers are currently closed for congregate programming and meals are being provided through a centralized meal delivery system. Call your local senior center with questions about how to receive delivered meals. You can also call Aging Connect at 212-Aging-NYC
(212-244-6469) or 311. For more information visit the DOHMH website for coronavirus updates.
To stay up-to-date with the Brooklyn DA’s Office, follow @brooklynda on Twitter and Facebook.
Q&A: Hate Crimes Bureau Chief Kelli Muse on Making Brooklyn Safe for All
In 2018, the Brooklyn DA’s Office announced the creation of a dedicated Hate Crimes Bureau to offer the most adequate response to the growing problem of bias-motivated crimes. The Hate Crimes Bureau investigates hate crimes from the early stages and enhances prosecutions whenever appropriate. In this interview, ADA Kelli Muse, Chief of the Hate Crimes Bureau, discusses the Bureau’s role in assisting victims, educating the community and holding perpetrators of hate crimes accountable.
How does the Hate Crimes Bureau determine if a crime was motivated by hate?
We determine if a case should be prosecuted as a hate crime if, through our investigation, we learn that the person intentionally selected a victim in whole or substantial part because of the victim’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
What steps has the DA’s Office taken to help prevent hate crimes in the community?
The Hate Crimes Bureau was created to not only prosecute individuals who commit certain crimes that are motivated in whole or substantial part by bias, but also to educate the community about hate crimes. In doing so, Assistant District Attorneys have engaged the community at Precinct Council Meetings, religious events, rallies, community board meetings, churches, synagogues, mosques, and schools. Our goal is to explain what a hate crime is, distinguish between hate crimes and protected hate speech, explain the process when someone believes that a hate crime is committed from the time the incident takes place through disposition and to inform the community of services that are available to victims.
What is your message to those who may be reluctant to report a hate crime?
We believe that a hate crime committed against an individual is a crime committed against the entire community because these acts impact everyone. Every person in Brooklyn and throughout this country should be free to walk the streets and feel safe regardless of what they look like, their culture, gender, who they worship and who they love. We want everyone to know that The Hate Crimes Bureau is a safe space. We know that, for many reasons, victims are not reporting all hate crimes that take place. Some victims feel intimidated by the police, some may fear immigration consequences and others may fear judgment. We want all our victims to know that their immigration status or sexual orientation does not matter to us when investigating and prosecuting crimes. All of our victims are treated with respect.
What do you enjoy most about the work you’re doing?
The best part about my work as Hate Crimes Bureau Chief is doing work that indelibly affects the community—work that matters. I believe that hate crimes impact the very fabric of who we are as a society. We are all proud of our culture, religion, and who we’ve grown up to be. We should be able to raise our families free of attacks born out of racism, prejudice, Anti-Semitism, homophobia, and trans-phobia. I enjoy going into schools, synagogues, churches, and community events to educate the public about bias motivated incidents. I like sitting with the community in the community, listening to concerns, and helping to resolve them. Of course, the most rewarding part of my work is being able to call a victim and telling them that justice has been served.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
333 Adams Street
Please use the drop down menu below to select your ticket based on the salary structure.
DA Eric Gonzalez – Inauguration Speech 1/21
I am so thrilled and honored to be standing here today. Growing up, my dream was to serve as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn DA’s office. That’s it. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be sworn in as the District Attorney. I am humbled and honored beyond my ability to express.
I want to thank you all for being here today to share this special moment. I believe, and I know that all of you in this room believe, that we can keep our communities safe while treating people who come into contact with the system – victims, witnesses and people accused of crimes — with fairness and respect. During my campaign for DA, I saw that the clear majority of Brooklynites share this belief.
I want to thank the consultants, staff and volunteers of my campaign for district attorney. They gave their all to a hard-fought campaign that I was so proud of; it was an inclusive campaign focused on safety and justice for all the communities of Brooklyn.
I also want to thank the staff of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. I am so proud of the commitment of every person in the office, to keeping Brooklyn safe and to promoting a fairer system of justice. It is an honor to be your leader, and I look forward to the great things we are going to accomplish together.
To my incredible wife Dagmar, our boys Evan, Dean and Cole, my mother and my mother-in law, both named Carmen! and all of my family — thanks for your endless patience, for keeping me grounded and real. I know that without you and your love and support, I would not be standing here today. Mom–thanks for always believing in me and loving me. Dagmar–thanks for being my true love and best friend.
I also want to acknowledge, and to remember, one towering figure who isn’t with us today. And that is my friend and mentor, the late Great Ken Thompson. We all imagined that today would be Ken’s day, his second inauguration, and that we would be looking back on his accomplishments, and looking forward to the future. So this is a bittersweet moment for me, and for many of us.
I know that Ken would be so proud of where the Office stands today, of how the staff held together to carry on his legacy of reform. We stand tall today on Ken’s shoulders, and we look forward to a bright future because of the groundwork he laid in the far too short time he held the office of Brooklyn District Attorney.
I was proud to work with Ken on the reforms for which the Brooklyn DA’s office continues to be known around the country:
Our Conviction Review Unit, with 24 wrongful convictions vacated thus far, is the national model.
Our Begin Again program, in which we vacated in a single day nearly 150,000 warrants in Brooklyn, has contributed significantly to reducing the enormous backlog of warrants that have prevented thousands of our fellow New Yorkers from moving forward with their lives.
Our Young Adult Court is one of the most innovative in the country, helping young people get the services they need to avoid further criminal justice involvement.
We have pursued all these reforms while keeping Brooklyn safe. We closed out 2017 as the safest year in my lifetime, and very possibly in yours: shootings and homicides hit record lows. Assaults, robberies, larcenies were all down.
As we consider this tremendous increase in public safety, we must acknowledge the extraordinary work of our partners in law enforcement, the New York City Police Department. The NYPD has shown a willingness and ability to adjust to changing times—all while developing and employing new strategies to reduce crime in our city. Stop and frisks are down, arrests are down, police use of weapons is down, and yet in 2018 we are safer than ever.
I want to thank the great men and women of the NYPD for their dedication and their hard work.
Even with all these tremendous accomplishments, there is more work to be done. I know we can move beyond what we have already achieved and make the Brooklyn DA’s Office the national model of what a progressive prosecutor’s office can be.
That’s why, today, I’m announcing the Brooklyn DA’s Justice 2020 Initiative, which is aimed at keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening communities’ trust in our criminal justice system by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all.
I intend to make significant progress toward this vision by the end of the year 2020, and this is how I’ll do it:
- My office will promote a justice system predicated on fairness, equity, compassion and fiscal responsibility;
- We will double down on our obligation, as prosecutors, to do justice, not just seek convictions;
- We will work toward outcomes that restore and heal victims and communities, and we will work to reduce racial disparities in our system;
- We will continue to identify and focus on those who do the most harm; the drivers of violent crime, those dangerous individuals will face the full force of the law. We will get them off the streets, and our streets will continue to be safer for it.
In Brooklyn, what we won’t do, however, is be passive in the face of cruel and misguided policies handed down from Washington DC, especially on immigration. Our recently-formed Immigration Unit is being adopted by prosecutors across the country and rightly so — it helps our friends and neighbors in immigrant communities avoid unjust deportation and sends a message to the rest of the country that when it comes to our immigrant communities, doing what’s right and fair doesn’t conflict with our commitment to public safety. Rather, it enhances it! it makes us safer!
We also won’t criminalize poverty by keeping people in jail just because they can’t afford to pay bail. In keeping with my support for, and commitment to, closing Rikers, we are leading the city in reducing reliance on cash bail.
We will continue to find new alternatives to incarceration for people whose issues can be addressed in better ways. We will reduce our reliance on jails and put an end to mass incarceration!
Next week, I will be launching our Brooklyn CLEAR program. Under CLEAR, we will divert people with drug possession cases into treatment and other services before they are charged, so they can avoid getting a criminal record. We will treat drug addiction as a health issue and not a crime.
We want to be able to measure the results of what we do, so we can hold ourselves accountable and continue to improve and to achieve our goals. So we will make better use of data to support and guide innovation in our approach to community safety and alternatives to prosecution. We will do this in collaboration with stakeholders and community partners.
This week I will be announcing the members of the Justice 2020 Launch Committee, whom I will task with making recommendations in keeping with my vision. The committee will be made up of community leaders, criminal justice experts and reformers, service providers, prosecutors and defense attorneys, representatives from the police department, and formerly incarcerated people.
The committee will work over the next few months to produce recommendations that I will share with the public.
I am so excited to begin this part of my journey, and the journey of the office I am honored to now lead.
While it feels like a time of incredible peril for our country, it is also a time of enormous promise. Even as we all share deep concerns about what is happening in Washington and the impact it is having on the most vulnerable among us, we also have, here in Brooklyn, a chance to be a national model of a criminal justice system that keeps us safe, is fair, and earns the respect and the trust of the community we serve. It is my great privilege to be leading this effort, but I cannot do it without all of you.
I want to take a minute to thank all those who helped make this ceremony special…
Brooklyn, thank you so much for putting your trust in me. Thank you for your support, now and in the future. Thank you for having my back and for lifting me up.
Thank you for joining me on this journey toward Justice 2020. I will not let you down!