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Episode 2, TLC: Full Narration - Transcript

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.


MELISSA PERUCH: Welcome to Connectopod. We are teens against DV and we are working with the Los Angeles Public Library and Strength United to bring awareness to domestic violence and abuse. My name is Melissa Peruch and I am covering mental, psychological, and emotional abuse. First of all, I'd like to ask, what is your job?

ESTHER NEILL: Yes, Melissa. It's a pleasure to be here. Hello, my name is Esther Neill, I am a certified victim advocate with the Los Angeles City Attorney's office Victim Assistance Program. I have been doing this for the last 25 years, so I'm an old fart over here, but I love my job tremendously. I did attend Cal-Sa University, Northridge, where I majored in Child Development and Political Science. I am currently a retired LAPD reserve officer. I served with the department for almost 30 years. I was certified by the National Organization of Victim Assistance, so I went through 120 hours to have my certifications, and I also have certifications in Sexual Assault as well as Domestic Violence. So hopefully I will be able to provide you with some information today.

MELISSA PERUCH: That's awesome, thank you. What is a typical workday like?

ESTHER NEILL: Oh God. Okay, there's some days where it's kind of quiet, which means that I'll be on the phone talking to victims- prior to the pandemic- that would be called into court, so I would do court accompaniments with the victim. Or I would have victims that would walk into the office and I would provide them services. So if it was an individual that needed to get away immediately, we would try to find relocation, assist them if they needed emergency funding to get diapers or clothes or food, we would provide that. We try to assist them with getting counseling.

ESTHER NEILL: Sometimes they need assistance with the Social Security Administration or Department of Children and Family Services if there's a social worker that they need to get ahold of, but they don't have their contact information. Or they need to apply for Medi-Cal or for food stamps. We try to provide that service for them or we try to hook them up with that agency where they can get those services done as soon as possible. So it's a day by day. So there's some days that are kind of slow. And then some days where I'll have a victim in my office and I'll have someone calling on the phone and I'll have two other victims waiting for me in the lobby. So it can be crazy. So it just depends on the day.

MELISSA PERUCH: Does psychological or emotional abuse take a toll on a victim's outer relationships, aside from their intimate one?

ESTHER NEILL: You know, I'm not a psychologist, but what I can tell you by the experience of working with these victims, once an individual has been a victim of domestic violence, it does change them. It takes a toll on them. If unfortunately they had previous trauma due to something else, that can exacerbate that trauma. It could send them into a tail spin where they just kind of lose control. That's why it's so important that they get this mental health counseling, that will really be able to assist them. I've seen some victims where the trauma is so severe, they have stomach aches, they get phantom pains, they get headaches, they actually get arthritis in their hands. Trauma can manifest in so many physical ways for the individual, which can cause issues for them, not only just in their personal life. If they're not at their desk at their job doing what they have to do, but they're always in the restroom because their stomach is sick or they feel nauseous. So it can have a major effect on them, both emotionally and psychologically, and also physically as well.

MELISSA PERUCH: Thank you so much, Esther.

ESTHER NEILL: You're welcome, my dear.

ARTINA TUROKH: Hi, my name is Artina Turohk reporting on legal abuse, and my question is: How can a victim going through legal abuse get help from the government or the authorities without putting themselves or anyone else at risk?

ESTHER NEILL: Hi, Artina. There are a lot of victim assistance programs that the victim can go to. They can get referrals there. It's difficult because every case is so different. So there's some individuals that are being threatened, that if they go to the police, if they say something, because you're here illegally, I'm going to report you, or I'm going to post something bad about you. When it comes to law enforcement, they need to have some sort of evidence to be able to file charges, or the prosecutors have to have evidence in order to be able to file the charges. How the individual can protect themselves is either by not posting more things online, if they get voicemails, if they get text messages, they need to save all that. They should have a notebook and write down these contacts that they're getting the day, the time, where were they?

ESTHER NEILL: So there's some sort of documentation they can provide to the investigators and also to the court. When it comes to protecting their family members as well. It's very hard because now in the digital age, people like to post things, but they don't realize that some of this information is getting out to the individuals actually causing the physical and emotional injuries. Law enforcement can do whatever they can to protect them, unfortunately, they're not going to put someone at their home to watch them 24 hours. The individual has to also realize that some of their actions can be bringing this harm. Making sure that their family friends realize that if, when they're talking to someone, not to be giving out information. So it's kind of like everyone has to kind of work together. Did that answer your question, I hope?

ARTINA TUROKH: Yes it did. Thank you.

TANISHA GUNBY: Hello, my name's Tanisha Gunby, I'm reporting on digital abuse. With widespread use of technology in our daily lives, what is the magnitude of digital abuse in our society?

ESTHER NEILL: Hi Tanisha, that's a really good question. The great thing about the web is that we can get information instantaneous, but at the same token, it is so damaging to an individual. And some of these perpetrators know exactly how to use this technology to hurt their individuals. You have victims where they're being monitored on their Facebook, they're being monitored on their Twitters, or Instagrams.

ESTHER NEILL: They're psychologically abusive to the individual by making statements: Why are you so dumb? Why are you this? Why are you this? Not only are they bringing down the victim, but now all family and friends that are reading this, now they're seeing this abuse as well, according to the individual. If they know how to use the internet very well, they can get access to the individual. Hurt people by putting pornographic pictures if they were intimate at one point. As you all know, once a picture is out there, it's out there, it cannot be taken down. It will always be there. So yes, a digital age, unfortunately, when it comes to domestic violence, it's hurting the individual more, big time. Now the person could be in Thailand and you could be here in Los Angeles and you can still get abused because of the technological advances that we have.

TANISHA GUNBY: Thank you so much.

ESTHER NEILL: You're welcome.

VIVIENE CARVAJAL: Hi, my name is Viviene Carvajal reporting for Connectopod, and my question for you is how often do you see men coming in to report about domestic violence or domestic abuse?

ESTHER NEILL: Hi, Viviene, that's a great question. Like I had mentioned earlier, I've been doing this job for 25 years. So when I first started, it seemed like a lot of the domestic violence was female. But recently it seems like within maybe the last 10, 15 years, I've been seeing a lot of males that have been coming in. It used to be there was a stigma with domestic violence that, especially if it was a male, that oh, he must be so weak because men typically are not victims. They're the strong ones, and the females are always known to be a little bit more weaker. But a lot of men have been coming forward, which is great because they're able to get the help that they need. And not only that, but the perpetrator is also getting the help that they need too. Because now they're being told that they have to get counseling, they have to get management classes, whatever it is, and they're realizing what they're doing is wrong.

ESTHER NEILL: So yes, I have seen a big increase in males. For every five victims that I get, I get maybe two that are male. And kudos to them and kudos to anyone that has the power and the strength to be able to come forward and make a report and do something about it because they're helping themselves and they're helping the next individual that could be a victim as well.

VIVIENE CARVAJAL: Wow, thank you. That was really eye opening, especially because of that stigma, which I completely agree with. And I find it really inspiring to see that all these men are starting to step up, despite all of that.

ESTHER NEILL: Domestic violence could happen to anyone; male, females. It doesn't matter if you're rich or you're poor, or if you're famous or not famous, it is just horrible because you have a lot of females that are physically hurting their partners. They slap them, or they use some sort of item in the house to literally beat them with it, or they're using the internet. They somehow are able to get their partner's passwords, so now they're going into their bank accounts, they're going into their Facebook. So now you're looking at the financial aspect of it too. And the guys, the same thing. You have some male individuals that will not physically touch their partners at all, but emotionally they're cutting them down. They're saying derogatory things to them and just being so negative and making them question themselves. They're tapping into their social media, into their private accounts because of the technology that we have. There are so many ways to be able to hurt someone which blows my mind.

TEEN 6: So when you encounter domestic violence victims and become associated with their cases, do you feel like the subject of domestic violence can often be overlooked and not handled appropriately enough?

ESTHER NEILL: When there's a report of domestic violence made the investigator, which is a detective, their job is to speak to all parties, get all the information that they can get, all the physical evidence that they can find- if there's emails, text messages, voicemails, if there's pictures of injuries- they take all that information, they submit it to the prosecutor. The district attorney's office review everything and they will determine whether they're going to file charges or not. Many times they won't. They kick it down to the misdemeanor court, which is a city attorney's office. The prosecutors will then review the case, and many times they'll do misdemeanor charges on it and they'll go to court. Sometimes they won't even file misdemeanor charges, which gets frustrating, but they still feel that it's important enough that they want to make sure that it's addressed, so they submit it to the hearings department.

ESTHER NEILL: Now the hearing is basically an informal meeting between a hearing officer and the victim and the perpetrator. They don't meet at the same time. They meet separate times, but they want to address the crime that occurred. So when the hearing officer meets with a perpetrator, they basically put them on notice, letting them know, yes, there were no criminal charges filed now, but if anything is to happen within the next year, that could be grounds for charges being filed at that point. And also they're told that they have to get either counseling or anger management classes or DV classes or whatever it is the hearing officer feels that that perpetrator needs to get. And many times when it goes to a hearing, it is resolved. We encourage everyone, all the victims, at least that I work with, to make a report because nothing can be done unless there's a report.

ESTHER NEILL: Once the report was taken, now there's something there to show that you have a trail of incidents that are occurring. I know it's hard for anyone to make a report because of the retaliation that could occur. I get frustrated when I hear people: well, she's a victim or he's a victim, it's been six months, they never reported it. What's their problem? Well, you know what, you're not in that individual's shoes. You don't know what they're going through. You don't know what the situation is at home for them to not want to make a report at that time. But the fact that they made a report means that they were able to get that inner strength to get something started, which takes a big toll emotionally. DV cases are so...they're hard to be honest with you when it comes to the court, it's really hard because there has to be certain criteria. They try to treat these cases equally across the board.

TEEN 6: Thank you so much, Esther.

ESTHER NEILL: You're welcome.

MARCIA MELKONIAN: Hello. My name is Marcia Melkonian and I'm the young adult librarian at the Canoga Park Branch Library. I'm interested to know what led you into the field of domestic violence.

ESTHER NEILL: I wanted to be a school teacher when I first started. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. So when I turned 18 years old, I became a LAPD reserve officer. And at the time when I was working as a reserve officer, we had a volunteer with the Victim Assistance Program where I work now. And because he didn't speak Spanish, he would go on callouts on some of these DV cases and he would ask me if I could go with him. So that's how it started, where I'm translating, but I see these cases and it is just horrendous. Some of the DV cases from the early days, holy moly, I would just want to die. I would not want to deal. These individuals have such an inner strength that I just cannot describe.

ESTHER NEILL: I still wanted to be a teacher, but then I got a job as an administrative assistant at a domestic violence shelter. The business office was actually at the shelter. I got to meet a lot of the women that were there with their kids and got to hear their stories and got to see them and interact with them. One day, there was an opening with the Victim Assistance Program and I applied, they hired me. We had to get trained to be victim advocates, and then ever since then every five years or so, I go through domestic violence advocate training.

ESTHER NEILL: We're not required to do it, but I wanted to do it because has DV has changed so much from 25 years ago to now there's been so many changes, especially the law is now so protective of DV victims when it wasn't a few years ago. Especially the way people see domestic violence victims. Nicole Brown Simpson, she brought it to the forefront because a lot of people knew that there was DV, but it was something you don't talk about just like sexual abuse and people realize that there's nothing wrong with talking about it and making people aware of it. That no one's going to think less of someone because they are a victim or they know someone who is. It's a life thing now that it does happen. I just want to be able to help them, and be to do what I can. Just to be there for them, they're so strong. And I meet the most incredible people during this job. It just sucks the way I meet them, because something horrible had happened to them in order for me to meet them.


ELIZABETH CALLA: I'm Elisabeth Calla and I'm the YA librarian at the Encino Tarzana Branch. Do you frequently help victims who are LGBT status?

ESTHER NEILL: We do have a specialized unit that deals specifically with LGBTQ. You can always talk to one of our advocates. I can give you more specific information on that, but yes, we do assist a lot of victims of LGBTQ within the city of Los Angeles.

ELIZABETH CALLA: Do you refer men to domestic violence shelters as well as women?

ESTHER NEILL: Yes. There are not that many shelters for men out there, but there are a few. So when I do have individuals that are requesting to get a shelter, we try to hook them up with shelters that are specifically geared for men.


VIVIENE CARVAJAL: Esther. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, listening and answering all our questions.

ESTHER NEILL: It was my pleasure to be here. Thank you again for having me here today, I'm here to answer any questions. If I don't have the answer, I will do everything I can to get the answer for you. My number is (213)-215-1913. Or you can also email me, and I'm just going to spell it out for you. It's esther.niell@lacity.org. You can also get referrals and resources from this website, which is www.helplacrimevictims.org.

VIVIENE CARVAJAL: If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence Strength United of CSUN has a 24/7 hotline. The phone number is (818)-886-0453. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE, which is 7233. Thank you for listening. Thank you so much, Esther. This was really informative and enlightening.

ESTHER NEILL: Oh, you're welcome. Again, you guys are phenomenal for all the ones that had questions. You guys are freaking amazing and awesome.


DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.