NCAVP mourns the death of 30-year-old Christopher Rodriguez in Harlem, NY

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic violence detailed in linked story

NCAVP mourns the death of Christopher Rodriguez, a 30-year-old gay man whose life was tragically lost to violence in Harlem, New York on May 16, 2020. According to local reports, Christopher became the fatal victim of an assault on Mother’s Day, after a friend he took in to stay with him in his apartment, Aljo Mrkulic, 31, brutally attacked him.

Christopher was a Lehman College graduate who spent his time tending to and taking care of his family. Christopher’s mother, Jacqueline Perez says, “He was the center of our family.” She says, “He always went to parties to dance. He was always taking care of animals. He would even feed cats in the street.” We send our deepest condolences in light of this tragic loss.

Local police are continuing to investigate Aljo Mrkulic who was taken into custody following the attack. Christopher’s brother is crowdfunding funeral costs. You can donate to that fund here.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of 28-year-old Nina Pop in Sikeston, Missouri

NCAVP mourns the death of  Nina Pop, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman whose life was tragically lost to violence in Sikeston, Missouri on May 3, 2020. Currently under police investigation, Nina was found dead in her apartment with injuries from an apparent assault.

In local reports, Nina’s friend,  Emory McCauley mourns, “She was always happy and we try not to take that personally, but it hits home a little bit.” On her Facebook page, friends remember her, “everyone knew and loved you.”

Local police are continuing this investigation and seeking motive for potential hate crime charges.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of 21-year-old Puerto Rican, transgender woman, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, in Humacao, Puerto Rico

NCAVP mourns the death of 21-year-old Layla Pelaez Sánchez, whose life was tragically lost to violence in Humacao Puerto Rico on April 21, 2020. In a heinous act, Layla was found dead alongside Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32,  a fellow New York native and Puerto Rican transgender woman.

According to the NY Times, Luz Melendez, 29, Layla’s cousin, described her as “an easygoing young woman who had been raised by her grandmother and was just beginning to explore the world.” Her grandmother, Ms. Melendez, told the Times, “ didn’t have bad friends and she was never in the street. It caught us by surprise since she transitioned so easily and she didn’t ever have any issues.” We send our deepest condolences to Layla and Serena’s family and friends.

Two men have been arrested in connection with this act of violence and local police are continuing this investigation as a hate crime.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of 32-year-old Puerto Rican, transgender woman, Serena Angelique Velázquez, in Humacao, Puerto Rico

NCAVP mourns the death of 32-year-old Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, whose life was tragically lost to violence in Puerto Rico on April 21, 2020. In a heinous act, Sánchez, was found dead alongside Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, a fellow New York native and Puerto Rican transgender woman.

According to reports, Serena was visiting Puerto Rico on vacation from her home in Queens, New York. In many online tributes, she is remembered fondly as a “happy person” and a “sincere friend.” An alumni of Universidad del Turabo, Serena maintained a YouTube channel teaching her audience about her personal spiritual practices. We send our deepest condolences to Serena and Layla’s family and friends.

Two men have been arrested in connection with this act of violence and local police are continuing this investigation as a hate crime.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Johanna Metzger, Baltimore, MD

NCAVP mourns the death of Johanna Metzger, whose life was tragically lost in Baltimore, MD on April 14, 2020, after a stabbing on April 11, 2020. According to local media reports, her mother reported that Johanna was a self-taught musician of multiple instruments and a college graduate.

Ahead of Tuesday’s virtual vigil held in Johanna’s honor, the Baltimore Safe Haven, a LQBTQ Center in Baltimore, released a statement, “The trans community LQBTQ nonconforming community matters and needs to step up and address this throughout the city.” We send our deepest condolences to Johanna’s mother, family, and friends.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

AVP OPPOSES NEW YORK STATE’S BAIL ROLLBACKS

AVP opposes New York State’s recently passed bail rollbacks which will put thousands more in jail, including marginalized and criminalized LGBTQ survivors of violence. 

New York City, NY – The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) opposes the actions of Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature to rollback 2019 bail laws, which will put thousands more in jail, including marginalized LGBTQ survivors like Layleen Polanco, a Black Afro-Dominican trans woman who died in Rikers jail complex nearly one year ago. 

AVP serves thousands of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of all forms of violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV), each year in New York State, through our hotline, counseling, support and legal services, and advocacy. As an organization that serves survivors of IPV and hate violence, AVP opposes these rollbacks on the basis that it will harm and jail many more in our community. 

Layleen Polanco was arrested on misdemeanor charges in April 2019 and taken into custody because she missed court dates as part of an alternative to incarceration program stemming from prostitution charges. She was sent to the jail complex because she could not afford $500 bail. Layleen was found unresponsive in her cell on June 7, and pronounced dead, after spending 8 days in solitary confinement, despite jail officials knowing she suffered from epilepsy. Her death in 2019 sparked protests and provided yet another example of why bail laws had to be reformed.  Earlier that year, AVP joined other social justice organizations to push New York State to pass bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention, ending the rampant injustices of money bail and ensuring due process. Backed by social justice advocates, survivor advocates, and formerly incarcerated individuals, legislators passed critical bail reform laws in April 2019 which went into effect January 2020. 

Yet this year, just months after the law went into effect, the Governor and legislature pushed a rollback proposal in the 2020 state budget that will perpetuate the practice of unfairly jailing many in our state who are poor and already marginalized. Pre-trial jailing can be deadly, and tragic deaths such as Layleen’s are likely to be repeated. Under rollbacks, anyone arrested who has a prior charge of misdemeanor will automatically be subject to bail, resulting in thousands of low-income people like Layleen languishing in jail due to their inability to pay bail. 

Contrary to the arguments of those who oppose bail reform, rollbacks will not make survivors of violence safer. In fact, rollbacks will harm marginalized survivors of violence. The proposed rollbacks will harm LGBTQ and other survivors of violence in the following ways.

  • Mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. Gendered assumptions in law enforcement‘s assessment of violence in LGBTQ relationships contributes to higher rates of survivors being arrested in police responses to LGBTQ IPV. When race intersects, the rates of survivor arrest are even higher. A fourth of all survivors are arrested or threatened with arrest during an incident or report. In New York City, the majority (66%) of survivors who were arrested alongside or instead of their abusive partner were Black or Latinx. Arrests cause more trauma and entrap survivors in our criminal legal system, which continues to cause harm and trauma, especially against Black, Latinx, immigrant, transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) survivors of violence. Rollbacks, which include expanded bailable categories around misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, could make it more likely that LGBTQ survivors of violence are incarcerated pre-trial. 
  • LGBTQ survivors of violence are more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. Now any repeat charge of misdemeanor automatically becomes a bailable offense, which means low-income LGBTQ survivors of violence will continue to languish in jail, as in the case of Layleen Polanco. Working class and poor LGBTQ survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use illegal substances. Marginalized survivors left out of legal economies and social safety nets often become entangled in the criminal legal system for these reasons, and the state has historically used profiling, policing, prosecution, and pretrial detention to criminalize these survivors instead of aiding them.

Especially as the rollbacks expand bailable categories of misdemeanor charges, the capacity for these new regressive bail laws to entangle thousands more in the criminal legal system has greatly expanded. AVP stands with other social and racial justice-oriented organizations to call for the Governor and legislature to stop these rollbacks from going into effect before the 90-day period of enactment ends, especially as jails are being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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NCAVP mourns the death of 32-year-old Penélope Díaz Ramírez in Puerto Rico

NCAVP mourns the death of 32-year-old, Puerto Rican transgender woman Penélope Díaz Ramírez, whose life was tragically lost to violence at the Bayamon correctional in Puerto Rico on April 13, 2020. Few details have been released about Penelope’s life and death. According to reports, Julio Serrano of the Coalition for the Search for Equity, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ group states,  “The police have the obligation to disclose the status of the investigations of at least eight murders , one death without a determined cause, and several attacks in which LGBTTIQ people have been injured since January 2019.”

As investigations continue, we send our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Letter to Gov. Cuomo and NYS: IPV Orgs Against Rollbacks

Dear Governor Cuomo and New York State Legislature,

As organizations that serve hundreds of thousands of survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV) in New York State, through counseling, support and legal services, and advocacy, we join the growing call of voices opposing rollbacks on bail reform. Contrary to the arguments of those who invoke intimate partner violence to push back against bail reform, rollbacks will not make survivors of violence safer. In fact, rollbacks will harm marginalized survivors of violence.

We are concerned that during this time of the COVID-19 crisis, some New York State elected officials are attempting to push through rollbacks when our communities really need support and resources. This is especially concerning as we know that during such crises, IPV incidents often increase. And yet, while the criminal legal system is often invoked as an ‘answer’ to dealing with IPV, for marginalized Black, latinx, immigrant, low-income and/or LGBTQ survivors, their status as survivors makes them more likely to become entangled in the criminal justice system.

This is because mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. A national study showed that a fourth of survivors are arrested or threatened with arrest during an IPV incident or report. In New York City, the majority (66%) of IPV survivors who were arrested alongside or instead of their abusive partner were Black or latinx.

Black, latinx, immigrant, low-income, and/or LGBTQ survivors of IPV are also more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. According to a study by the Department of Justice, 77 percent of those incarcerated in women’s jails were victims of IPV. As there are no “perfect survivors” of violence, low-income Black, latinx, immigrant, and/or LGBTQ survivors of IPV include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use substances. These survivors deserve support and resources, not criminalization and incarceration, which rollbacks only exacerbate.

Bail rollbacks will harm marginalized IPV survivors. We ask that you reject rollbacks on bail reform, and work with us to find more ways to invest in measures that will actually help survivors of intimate partner violence live in safety and dignity. This includes increasing the State’s social safety net by investing in safety planning resources, emergency shelter, long-term housing and services for trans and gender non-conforming people, expanding protections and resources for non-citizens, passing laws like Good Cause Eviction and Home Stability Support, and repealing discriminatory policies like the ”Walking While Trans” loitering law. It means pushing to cancel rent and utilities and other financial burdens on low-income Black, latinx, immigrant, and/or LGBTQ people of color that exacerbate power dynamics in IPV situations.

These are the kinds of social safety net resources and services that survivors of IPV need, especially during a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. New York State Legislators, we urge you to stand alongside survivors of intimate partner violence and anti-IPV advocates and push against rollbacks to bail reform.

Signed,

The New York City Anti-Violence Project
Women’s Community Justice Association
STEPS to End Family Violence – a Program of Rising Ground
BlackLine
Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley
New Hour for Women & Children —LI
Girls for Gender Equity, Inc. (GGE)

Tips for When Staying Home Isn’t The Safest Plan

While being at home is best practice to avoid the spread of this virus, for some it may carry other risks. Many survivors are navigating a difficult reality: staying home to keep themselves and their community safe may keep them isolated with the person(s) causing them harm. This could be a partner, a roommate, or a family member.

If you’re unsafe, try to consider what your options are and remember AVP is here to help with navigating available resources. 

Call AVP’s 24/7 hotline 212-714-1141, other hotlines, or contact service providers from a separate room.

  • Going to the bathroom can provide an added layer of privacy.

  • If you are on the phone and unattended, you can run the shower or faucet to make some noise during the call if you need to and feel comfortable doing so.

  • If you have private access to the internet, you can submit an online report form to us and someone will reach back out to you via email within the first 24-48 hours.

If going outside is accessible, social distancing still permits walks, while maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from other people.

  • Going outside can give you a break from a tense situation,

  • It can also remove you from and/or deescalate an unsafe situation or interaction.

  • Take this time to ground yourself, call a social support, reach out to a hotline, or have a counseling session.

  • You can also use this time to use safety apps such such as Circle of 6 and/or grounding apps such as Calm.

Identify your Pod, your network of people in your building or digital community, for continued support.

  • Create a code word/sentence with people in your support network to indicate that you need an immediate interruption or immediate help.

  • Discuss with your support network what you would like that help to look like if you use the code word/sentence (i.e. deescalation, calling a specific individual, calling 911 etc.)

  • Create scheduled check-ins with people in your support network.

Hide some of your resources in safe places & create a plan:

  • Stash a portion of your medication, money, drugs, or food that you can take with you if you leave, or can access on your own time.

  • Keep your ID on you as much as possible.

  • Create a go-bag of essentials including your medication, money, phone charger, food, drugs, and IDs.

  • Think about the easiest and safest routes for you to get out of your home quickly.

Learn more about safer drug use and harm reduction here.

We understand not all of these tips will work for, or apply to, everyone. Ultimately, AVP believes survivors know what they need, and we trust you to use the strategies and tools that work best for you. Please remember that you don’t have to go it alone, and we are here for you, to listen, to create a personalized safety plan, or for other support at 212-714-1141.

Coronavirus Update: AVP Office Closure

UPDATE 4/21: Under continued guidance from government and medical agencies, AVP’s offices will remain close through the end of May. We are continuing to monitor the situation.

ORIGINAL POST 3/16: 

We hope you are all taking care of yourselves and each other in these times that are stressful for all of us. We are writing to let you know that due to the escalating situation around coronavirus, and in the interest of our collective community’s health and well-being, AVP has decided to close our offices for in-person appointments and walk-ins, beginning Monday 3/16/20 and extending at least through 3/31/20. 

We know this is a difficult time for our communities locally and across the globe, and that many of you may have been personally impacted by the spread of coronavirus, and the violence and bias that often accompanies crises like this. We understand that taking precautions around avoiding getting sick can often create heightened stress and anxieties .

We also know that our communities are strong and resilient, and that we come together to lift each other up during times like these. At AVP, we are committed to remaining a resource for you during this challenging time.

Despite closing our offices for appointments, we are still here for you. As always, our 24/7 English-Spanish hotline (212-714-1141) is up and running—and we will support you with counseling, safety planning, and finding resources, including medical care, and take reports on any violence you experience.

If you are a current client at AVP, you can remain in touch with the staff member with whom you are working (e.g. Advocate, Attorney, Clinician, Paralegal, etc.):

  • If you are in email contact with the staff member, reach out via email.  We can set up phone sessions and provide resources via email, as needed.
  • If you do not have email access, or are not in in email contact with the staff member, please call the office 212-714-1184. Follow instructions to leave a message for the staff member and they will return your call.
  • If you are experiencing an emergency, call the hotline 212-714-1141 and let the person you speak to know which staff member you are trying to reach. They will get the message to that staff member, who will reach out to you with the means you provide for safe contact.

AVP is aware that the current pandemic is resulting in racist bias, disrimination, and violence, particularly against those who are or perceived to be Asian or Asian-American, and that for LGBTQ folks who hold these identities, the bias may be compounded.

If you’re experiencing or witnessing any violence, including in relation to coronavirus, you can report to our hotline (212-714-1141) or online.

No one should experience bias, discrimination, or harassment around any parts of their identity, including their race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, but we know it continues to happen, and may increase in times of crisis like this one.

AVP is still here for you: anyone can reach out to us, even if you have never received services with us before:

  • CALL OUR HOTLINE at 212-714-1141: Our 24/7 English-Spanish hotline is up and running—and we will support you with counseling, safety planning, and finding resources, including medical care, and take reports on any violence you are experiencing.
  • Report bias, discrimination, or other violence you witness or experience online at avp.org/get-help.  You can remain anonymous or give us contact information for a counselor to reach out to you via phone or email to offer additional support.

During uncertain times, it’s important to find our grounding in what we do know and can do:

  • Everyday precautions can help protect you and your loved ones from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.  Don’t touch your face.

  • If you are at higher riskof getting very sick from COVID-19, it is incredibly important that you reduce your risk of being exposed–stay home if you can, and avoid crowds.

  • Keep a 30 to 60-day supply of all necessary medications, particularly those who are living with HIV and/or have autoimmune deficiencies.

For continued updates: 

  • Call Department of Health 24/7 Hotline: 1-888-364-3065.
  • Go to nyc.gov/health/coronavirus and cdc.gov/coronavirus for regularly updated information.

  • Text COVID to 692-692 to receive NYC updates and guidance.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.