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HEAL program brings together resources for domestic violence victims.

Byline: Nora A. Jones

The Healing through Education Advocacy and Law (HEAL) program is physically located at 300 Crittenden Blvd. on the Strong Memorial Hospital campus and is overseen by the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Psychiatry.

Catherine (Kate) Cerulli, J.D., Ph.D., shared her knowledge of the HEAL program as part of a free three-credit continuing education program on Monday, Oct. 22, presented by Volunteer Legal Services Project Inc. and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys' Domestic Violence Committee.

Mary Beth Conway, Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County Managing and Staff Attorney, opened the CLE which included a presentation by Corey Nichols-Hadeed of the URMC's Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization (LIVV).


October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, so it was very fitting to have a CLE aimed at understanding the dynamics of domestic violence, and exploring the resources available locally.

Cerulli, director of the Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization at the University of Rochester, is also founder and co-director of the HEAL program, which began operating in October 2016.

"If you Google danger assessment, you'll find checklists and guidelines to help you determine risk associated with homicide of batterers and victims," noted Cerulli as she listed some of the personality variables of both male and female abusers.

The New York State Office of Prevention of Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as "a pattern of coercive tactics, which can include physical, psychological, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, perpetrated by one person against another adult intimate partner, with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control."

There are hundreds of reasons people stay in abusive relationships, and, at the heart of the matter, most of them want to continue the relationship, just without the abuse.

Holistic Care

The HEAL program is a collaborative currently including the following partners:

Willow Domestic Violence Center, which offers a 24/7 hotline, safety planning, emergency shelter, support groups and counseling, and more.

Resolve of Greater Rochester, offering short-term individual counseling, safety planning, financial and career counseling.

The Legal Aid Society of Rochester, providing civil legal services in custody, visitation, child support, matrimonial, and housing matters.

The Rochester Police Department has a Victim's Assistance Unit that serves victims and witnesses of crime.

Lifespan provides elder abuse prevention and intervention.

Monroe County Family Court, which provides remote access to Temporary Orders of Protection, using skype to issue orders while a patient is in URMC's care.

Domestic violence victims previously had to navigate multiple resources in search of mental health, legal and social services, often in a state of overwhelming distress.

"Victims often are unable to articulate their story in a coherent manner," Cerulli explained. "They are often suffering from lack of sleep and/or PSTD."

"It is crucial to understand where your client is coming from," added Conway, who has years of experience screening clients and finding legal representation for victims of domestic violence seeking custody, support and divorce.

Removing Barriers

Monroe County had nearly 5,000 reported cases of interpersonal violence in 2016, but in reality, there are many more incidents that don't get reported.

Most victims are afraid to come forward and be identified as a victim of abuse. They may fear repercussions from their perpetrator. They may be depressed and fatigued from the secrets and fears in their everyday life.

The HEAL program aims to remove barriers and decrease the burden on patients and the health care system. Referrals and appointments can be made by calling 585-275-HEAL or visit the HEAL website at

Physical Evidence

Corey Nichols-Hadeed, J.D., an associate in URMC's LIVV, shared insights into use of Alternative Light Source (ALS) lights to document injuries that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

"The goal is to compare and contrast the effect of three different light sources during the documentation of bruises," Nichols-Hadeed explained, referring to a study she is involved in at the Interpersonal Violence lab. "Pictures are taken with traditional lighting, with infrared, and with ultraviolet alternative source lighting."

For the study, they are seeking participants 18 years or older who speak English and have recently reported pain from interpersonal violence at the hands of a family member, or intimate partner. Participant information is strictly confidential and not part of the person's medical record.

Nora A. Jones is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

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Publication:Daily Record (Rochester, NY)
Date:Oct 30, 2018
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