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For Release: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

DEC and State Parks Launch New Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Training to Help Make Recreational Areas Safer

Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Training of Over 4,000 Staff Working at State Parks, Campgrounds, Trails to Help Identify and Respond to Incidents

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation launch new trainings to help prevent domestic and sexual violence at the hundreds of parks, campgrounds, day use areas, trails, boat launches, and other public outdoor spaces operated across New York. The State's seasonal hiring is underway and experts led by the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) are training many of the public-facing staff as part of Governor Kathy Hochul's initiative launched last year (leaves DEC website) to help domestic and sexual violence victims and survivors, with the goal of providing resources, access to safety and support to save lives.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Domestic and sexual violence can happen anywhere, and it is critical that we have staff members who are trained to identify warning signs, respond to incidents and assist survivors who need help. DEC is proud to join State Parks and the Office of Prevention of Domestic Violence to help prevent these violent acts before a tragedy occurs. With nearly all of our campgrounds opening this weekend, DEC remains committed to making visitors' stay safe and enjoyable."

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "We look forward to our staff receiving this important training through the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. This is a smart partnership that will improve our state's response to domestic and gender-based violence - and strengthen our agency's commitment to help all visitors feel safe and welcome while visiting our State Parks."

OPDV Executive Director Kelli Owens said, "We must start engaging more allies in the effort to prevent gender-based violence. It only takes one person to make a difference in a survivor's life. When all parts of public-facing systems understand the impact and consequences of gender-based violence, especially as it relates to marginalized communities, we increase the likelihood that an individual will find a path out of abuse. I thank Governor Hochul for her steadfast commitment to preventing domestic violence and for her leadership on ensuring that survivors have the support they need."

In October, Governor Hochul announced the training as part of the State's work to transform domestic and sexual violence service delivery to be more culturally responsive, survivor-centered, and trauma-informed. OPDV created, developed, and launched the training program for when many of the State's parks, campgrounds, and recreational areas, which serve millions of patrons annually, reopen for the season. More than 4,000 staff who work on public lands at DEC and State Parks are expected to receive the training. In addition, State Park Police, DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Forest Rangers will continue to receive training to recognize the signs of domestic violence during their interactions with the public.

To combat domestic and sexual violence and create safety for all survivors, there is a critical need for a better understanding of gender-based violence across all systems, the cultural intersections of domestic and sexual violence and the challenges that individuals face in accessing services. The training explores these intersections and engages with organizations that specifically assist individuals in traditionally underserved communities and are led by individuals with those voices. The partnership among State agencies recognizes the importance of engaging and training non-traditional allies and the training covers the dynamics of all forms of gender-based violence so that public-facing DEC and Parks employees are better equipped to respond to incidents and assist individuals who need help. By extending the availability of assistance beyond the existing network of traditional service providers, survivors will know that they can get help accessing resources they need.

DEC operates 52 campgrounds and five day-use areas in the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves that provide a wide variety of visitor experiences that can be found at DEC's website. While two DEC campgrounds opened earlier this spring-Wilmington Notch in Essex County on May 6, and Fish Creek in Franklin County on April 1-most DEC campgrounds open this weekend on May 20. State Parks oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which are visited by 78 million people annually and can be found at NYS Parks website (leaves DEC website). To make reservations, visit the ReserveAmerica website (leaves DEC website).

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (leaves DEC website) is the country's only Executive-level State agency dedicated to the issue of gender-based violence. New York's Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline provides confidential support 24/7 and is available in most languages: 800-942-6906 (call), 844-997-2121 (text) or @opdv.ny.gov (chat). The Office of Victim Services (leaves DEC website) also funds a network of more than 212 community-based programs that provide direct services to victims of crime and their families. The programs also help any victim of crime apply for compensation and other assistance from the agency, which is a safety net for individuals who have no other resources.

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