Vera House

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Vera House in Syracuse has been helping victims of domestic and sexual violence for 25 years now. Officials for the agency say they will continue to help victims, but are looking for a more permanent answer to the problem over the next 25 years.

The domestic and sexual violence numbers in this year’s Vera House annual report didn’t change much from the past. Last year in Onondaga County there were two homicides involving intimate partners, and Syracuse Police and Onondaga County law enforcement officers answered almost 18,000 total domestic violence calls last year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There’s a new kind of playbook for some of the athletic coaches in the Syracuse City School District. The district is teaming up with Vera House to pilot a program encouraging male athletes to have healthy relationships, especially with the women in their lives.

Coaches for Nottingham High School's football team, freshman basketball team and modified soccer team will be dealing with more than X’s an O’s when the season starts. They will also carry a playbook and flip cards that have topics like "Disrespecting Behavior towards Girls," and "Understanding Consent."

Central New Yorkers trying to help victims of domestic violence are happy that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that deals with the changing technology.

Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman says the world of domestic violence and harassment has changed as technology allows people to become more plugged in.

"It used to be aggravated harassment was primarily making a phone call," Bregman explained. "Now it’s texting, Facebook messaging, email and the GPS piece."

With an aging population, elder abuse is becoming more prevalent across the country and in central New York. Financial abuse has become one of the most common ways people take advantage of older Americans.

Jenny Hicks runs a program out of Vera House in Syracuse that focuses on elder abuse, and says there’s a kind of déjà vu in an agency that for years has counseled victims of domestic violence.

“It’s very much like domestic violence was 35 years ago -- in the shadows," Hicks said. "People are just now starting to talk about elder abuse.”

Domestic abuse and sexual violence are complicated social problems that many people find difficult even to talk about.  In this edition of the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher has a frank and open discussion with Vera House executive director Randi Bregman, about the nature of the problems, the best ways to address them, and the personal experience of working with the victims.

Vera House is encouraging adults and teens to talk about the issue of teen dating violence. The Syracuse agency hopes to get the conversation going by hosting a Twitter town hall session Tuesday.

As many as one in three teens will experience some kind of violence stemming from a romantic relationship, according to Vera House education director Loren Cunningham. But it’s often hard to get teens to open up about it.

A recent domestic violence death in central New York hung over this year's Vera House Annual Report to the community this week. The deaths this week of a Liverpool woman and her friend, allegedly at the hand of her estranged husband, was on the mind of survivors of domestic violence and those who work with victims of domestic violence.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Cheers are coming from all corners of central New York following the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act last week in Washington. The renewal of the law had been stalled for almost two years in the midst of House and Senate gridlock.

The recent accusation against former Onondaga County Family Court Judge Brian Hedges, that he sexually molested his 5-year-old deaf niece 40 years ago,  has brought the issue of abuse against the disabled  into the open.

While domestic violence continues to be an issue in Central New York, the group that puts out the annual report to the community on domestic and sexual violence, found one bright spot in the stats. But that bright spot didn't last long.