Suzanne's Story: Escaping Crime (Courts Program)
Getting along with her neighbors was difficult for Suzanne* to do – especially since her nearby neighbors constantly harassed her and threatened her life and the lives of her children. The harassment had escalated to violence, when the neighbors attacked her young daughter. Her daughter managed to escape them and to run to her family’s apartment for safety, but the attackers followed close behind, and banged on the door until Suzanne finally opened it. When she did, one of the attackers lifted his shirt and flashed his gun at her.
He did it to scare Suzanne out of calling the police, and it worked. Soon afterward, however, Suzanne’s neighbors began stalking her and her children, continuing their harassment and threats. They motioned their fingers at them as if they were shooting them, and warned them to watch themselves.
Suzanne could no longer take living with her abusive, dangerous neighbors. She and her family should have been able to live in their community without fearing that their lives were in danger. Yet they were intimidated, threatened, and attacked, and had become too afraid even to go outside. That’s why she came to our Criminal Court Program office, desperately hoping to get away from the terror she and her family had to endure.
Stories like these are why having a place such as Safe Horizon is crucial. With more than 30 years of experience helping victims of crime and abuse, we have the expertise that families like Suzanne’s can rely upon when they most need help. Suzanne came to us and found that we were ready to listen – and more importantly, ready to help her take action to keep her family safe.
Our staff sat down with Suzanne and began listening to her story. Suzanne wanted to relocate from her home to a new place, but first, she needed to plan a way to keep her family safe until she could actually move. We helped her come up with a safety plan, and then explored options such as filing a police report, getting emergency housing assistance, and applying for financial assistance to help with the move. Suzanne had only filed one police report – for the assault on her daughter. She had not reported those other incidents because she was too afraid that her neighbors would retaliate if she told police about the harassment and the threats with the gun.
We explained that Suzanne could receive emergency housing assistance, but she would need to file police reports. We also explained that should her neighbors continue their harassment, without a previous record about it, the police would not be able to arrest them. Suzanne decided to file the police reports.
Once she did, we helped Suzanne receive status as an “Intimidated Victim” which made it possible for her to get emergency assistance more quickly. In less than a month, Suzanne had found a new apartment, and with our advocacy, she was able to receive emergency funds to help her pay for moving expenses.
As Suzanne and her family prepared to move, our staff worked with her to create a new safety plan, just in case her former neighbors found out where she lived. We also provided a letter to Suzanne’s employer, explaining her family’s situation and requesting time for her to move her family to a safer place.
With our efforts, Suzanne gained the safety she and her family deserved. Suzanne also learned that in addition to getting help from the police, she could also depend on Safe Horizon to provide her with the tools she needed during her time of crisis. Suzanne and her family now have a new apartment and a new neighborhood, and they know if they ever need us again, we will be there – ready, willing, and able to help.