Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Advocate/Tony Castro.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Tony Castro Speaks About Domestic Violence
At Fordham University School Of Law

Last Monday, April 6, Tony Castro, candidate for District Attorney of Westchester, appeared at Fordham University Law School in New York City for a panel discussion of domestic violence.

Castro was joined by Dr. Maria Munoz Kantha, family therapist, columnist and lecturer on issues of marriage and family, who organized the symposium, as well as Dr. Josie Diaz, youth and adolescent counselor and advisor, and Laura Cruz-Colon, domestic violence survivor,
broadcaster and lecturer.

Castro, who was an Assistant District Attorney, rising to Deputy Bureau Chief of Homicides and the Grand Jury over 14 years in The Bronx District Attorney’s Office, has been in private practice, engaged principally in criminal defense, for the past eight years. He shared, with some 50 law students in attendance, some of what he had learned on the Defense side in numerous domestic violence cases. He spoke of the importance of maintaining a fair and open-minded attitude, and, not necessarily seeking only short-term solutions to domestic violence
issues, but rather longterm, comprehensive agreements that will satisfy the needs of each partner and, more importantly, the children, if any, involved.

Castro stressed the importance of thorough investigation to determine the accuracy and veracity of all allegations and counter-claims in domestic violence cases. He pointed out the fact that people involved in alleged domestic violence “do not always have the courage to analyze the truth”. He stated, “An Order of Protection can create a false sense of security, but it does work in 90 percent of cases.”

Dr. Kantha spoke of “The cycle of power and control.” She stressed the need to understand the dynamics of the relationship in cases of domestic violence, and the need to approach such situations with empathy.

Kantha made a Powerpoint presentation displaying very graphic projected images of the severe facial and bodily injury inflicted by the domestic partner of Carolyn Thomas, a well-known Olympic athlete who lost most of her face to a gunshot by an enraged domestic partner who also killed her mother.

Dr. Josie Diaz told the aspiring lawyers, “Orders of Protection are a mixed bag.” She discussed acquaintance rape and violence between adolescents. She explained that often women “make up with a violent partner several times, essentially because they are afraid of them, and afraid of being
alone.” Dr. Diaz pointed out that we tend to raise boys and girls differently; rewarding boys for aggressive acts, but girls for being quiet. She cited instances of parents and other adult authority figures who frequently make calls to emergency mental health agencies when they discover boys playing with dolls.

Dr. Kantha reinforced the experiences revealed by Dr. Diaz, citing several instances from her own professional experience in family counseling and individual therapy, explaining the frequent tendency by misguided adults to overreact out of fears of homosexuality.

Laura Cruz-Colon, a domestic violence survivor, speaking about her former violent partner, told the students, “I didn’t want to hurt him,
I wanted to kill him,” as she detailed the emotions and thoughts that she lived with during an abusive relationship early in her adult life. She
detailed the fear and the guilt she experienced during 11 years of psychological and physical abuse.

She explained that the reality was she was, “no more abused than I allowed.” She told the students that she had to develop a plan of action which took three years to execute. Now happily married for more than 20 years, Cruz-Colon explained, “Abuse doesn’t stop on its own. It requires a re-framing of self.”

Tony Castro took the opportunity to detail the importance of cooperation between law enforcement, Police and the District Attorney’s
Office, together with community social service and health care agencies, in successfully dealing with cases of domestic violence, particularly where there are children involved. He cited a Yonkers case, the tragic outcome in the Dennis Alvarez-Hernandez/Patricia Torres relationship which ended in the death, by stabbing, of Torres and two of her four young children fathered by two other men, at the hands of Alvarez-
Hernandez during one of the couple’s many alcoholic binges.

Castro illustrated for the students how it was that two individuals, with numerous police reports of domestic violence, could nevertheless slip through the cracks, going unchecked and uncorrected, until it was too late. He said, “One organization will point a finger at another. And, then, the pendulum tends to swing the other way when you have such a notorious case.”

Castro stressed the importance of communication and cooperation between the District Attorney’s Office and all other agencies involved to prevent tragic outcomes in cases of domestic violence.

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