The creation of the Victim Services Agency marks the end of a demonstration grant of the Vera Institute of Justice called the Victim Witness Assistance Project (V/WAP) which provided support to victims who had been intimidated or who felt too threatened to testify in court. Mayor Ed Koch awards a city contract to establish the VSA in 1978 with a mission to heal the wounds of violence and prevent victimization. (Shown in picture: Lucy Friedman, Victim Services Agency’s first CEO, the late Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan, Board Member Emeriti, and the late Mayor Ed Koch)
The Victim Services Agency launched several programs in 1978: Project SAFE, Crime Victims Hotline, complaint rooms in Brooklyn & Bronx Courts to offer help and advocacy for orders of protection, reception centers in criminal and family courts, and children’s centers in courts. A year later we also launched a program to support survivors of homicide victims.
This pioneering service offers an alternative to the traditional court process. It was started first in Brooklyn and then expanded to Queens.
The Travelers Aid Service’s mission was to assist family and friends of victims, travelers in distress, homeless, runaways, immigrants, and crime victims and their families. Services included transportation, tourist information, stranded passenger services, and a 24-hour runaway hotline.
Two innovative programs also launch in 1982. First, Alternatives to Violence provides educational workshops to the abusive partner in domestic violence cases. Second, Project Oasis offers a network of more than 100 beds throughout NYC host homes. Victims of domestic violence and their children found shelter provided by women willing to open their homes, marking the beginning of our domestic violence shelter program.
In Brooklyn and Bronx, we launch Emergency Family Day Care for domestic violence survivors and their children, providing training and support for daycare providers and mothers.
Streetwork Project begins as “street work,” an effort to reach homeless young people who are living on the street and in need of resources to stay safe. Many of the young people had fled their home due to violence and abuse but had few supportive services to turn to in the early 1980s. In response, Streetwork Project opens a storefront drop-in center and conducts outreach by foot with staff fanning out into the streets, arcades and movie houses of Times Square area. Today, the program operates two comprehensive drop-in centers, an overnight shelter, and an outreach program.
Victim Services Counselors are paired with police officers to reach out to families that report domestic disturbances to police.
The services originally offered include: crisis intervention and counseling for victims of crime, support groups for domestic violence survivors, a food pantry, and counselors fluent in six languages who had expertise in immigration issues. Today, we have community program offices in all five boroughs.
Other programs launched in 1987 include:
Our Emergency Housing Transfer Program launches in partnership with the New York City Housing Authority and New York City Housing Preservation & Development. The program arranges for domestic violence survivors and other intimidated victims living in public housing to transfer to safe housing in other areas of New York City.
Our Staten Island Community Program opened to provide short-term counseling, practical assistance, support groups, and counseling/support for rape victims provided by volunteer advocates on-call 24 hours a day.
Joann Lang, Board Member
In 2017, our Domestic Violence Hotline advocates answered more than 86,000 calls.
The Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center , the first of five CACs, opens after many years of advocacy and planning. Modeled after a program created in Alabama, our CACs provide a neutral setting to coordinate and expedite the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases involving severe physical abuse and all cases of sexual abuse. The groundbreaking approach offers effective, immediate, and sensitive support in collaboration with the NYPD, ACS and King’s County District Attorney and local hospitals. This pioneering model would become the gold standard of child abuse response and treatment.
Other programs launched in 1996 include:
Our second CAC opens to provide services to victims of child abuse and their families on Staten Island. It will go on to become fully co-located in 2009.We updated our mission statement:
"To provide, support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities."
We adopt our tagline: “Moving victims from crisis to confidence.” To increase our focus on providing services for victims of violence, several programs move to other organizations, including the Immigration Hotline and Travelers Aid Program.
Following the tragic terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, we are called upon to help citizens of the city heal. Safe Horizon steps to the frontline to help victims impacted, setting up operations in the Lexington Avenue Armory as the center for victim services and assisting with the Family Assistance Center at Pier 95. We help more than 45,000 people. During this time we also serve as a conduit for the 9/11 Fund and distribute approximately $200 million in compensation and financial assistance. Safe Horizon staff increased to 1,000 to meet the demand for victim services after the tragedy.
Our Anti Trafficking Program (ATP) opens. With funding from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, ATP pioneers services for trafficking survivors in New York City and is now the largest anti-trafficking program on the east coast.
Ellen, Safe Horizon client − resident of downtown Manhattan
Our third CAC opens, serving victims of child abuse and their families in Queens.
Safe Horizon joins a statewide effort to pass the Child Victims Act, legislation that if enacted would reform New York’s overly rigid statute of limitation laws for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The Act would allow more time for survivors to bring criminal charges and file civil litigation against those who committed the abuse or knowingly failed to report it. Our efforts to pass this legislation continue today.
Our fourth CAC opens, serving victims of child abuse and their families in Manhattan.
Safe Horizon completes a strategic planning process, making a commitment to establish a structured, client-centered approach to practice across all programs and sites, and investing in new training, supervision, and quality assurance tools to achieve this goal.Minor Victims of Trafficking Program launches
Safe Horizon envisions a society free of family and community violence. We will lead the way by empowering victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking to move from crisis to confidence.
The campaign asks participants to donate to Safe Horizon, paint their ring fingernail any shade of purple and share an image on social media. Celebrities and people from all around the world have since joined the campaign.
Our 5th CAC opens in the Bronx, capping a 20 year effort to provide healing and justice to child victims of abuse in all five boroughs.
The Young Men of Color Working Group
Safe Horizon joins with experts from organizations across New York City that actively serve boys and young men of color to form The Young Men of Color Working Group. This group identifies and explores effective outreach methods to engage young men and provide culturally appropriate trauma-informed services to address their needs. Initial learnings from the working group are piloted at Safe Horizon’s Manhattan-Bronx and Brooklyn Community Programs and Counseling Center with the vision of better serving boys and young men of color in New York City.
Crime Victim Assistance Program
We partner with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to place one domestic violence victim advocate and one crime victim advocate in every precinct in New York City by the end of 2018. This groundbreaking effort is part of ThriveNYC, a comprehensive mental health initiative championed by First Lady Chirlane McCray.
Satellite Counseling Locations
Our Counseling Center establishes satellite clinics in four Safe Horizon sites: the Manhattan/Bronx Community Program office, two domestic violence shelters and the Streetwork Project Uptown Drop In Center for homeless youth, ensuring that many more survivors of crime and abuse have access to quality, trauma-focused counseling.
Child Trauma Response Team
Through this unique program, a child trauma responder is placed within a police precinct to follow-up within 72-hours of a domestic violence incident being responded to by an NYPD officer. The child trauma responder reaches out to the family to offer services, conduct a trauma screening and engage the family in trauma treatment. The program was piloted in the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem in 2016 and has expanded to include more precincts in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx.
Child Victims Act
Since 2006 Safe Horizon has taken an increased leadership role in advocating for passage of the Child Victims Act by organizing an energetic, statewide coalition of survivors and advocates, leading press conferences with key government officials, advocating directly with lawmakers in Albany, and more. The New York State Assembly passed versions of the bill several times over the past 12 years, including most recently in 2017; it has never been passed by the New York State Senate.
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The well-being and safety of our clients and staff is always our top priority.