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RALLY, GRANTS OPEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OBSERVANCE

They call themselves the "Survivors Club." But this support group has nothing to do with living on a tropical island.

The Survivors Club is made up of women who have survived attempted murder by hit men hired by their husbands or boyfriends. About 200 women each year are killed by these assassins, and Jessica Benigni of Buffalo wore a purple ribbon in their memory, and for all domestic-violence deaths, during a march against family violence late Friday morning through downtown.

Benigni, a supervising counselor with Crisis Services, was joined by hundreds of other women and men, ranging from elected officials to survivors of domestic violence.

"We see 60 to 80 injured women a month getting treated in local hospital emergency rooms," said Benigni at the steps of City Hall. A white ribbon behind her purple one honors these survivors.

And those numbers, Benigni pointed out, are "still underreported."

"This will be a better world when people stop beating on other people," commented one domestic violence survivor from Cheektowaga, who is hiding out from an abusive boyfriend in another state.

Heading the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence, Benigni and her supporters want to promote "healthy relationships." It's one of the goals during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which starts Sunday, with many events to present alternatives to violence.

Victoria L. Lutz, executive director of the Pace Women's Justice Center, will deliver the YWCA of Western New York's "Confronting Violence Against Women" address Wednesday after a noon luncheon at Fanny's Restaurant in Amherst.

Ms. Lutz has created and conducted domestic violence and sexual assault training programs for prosecutors, civil and criminal defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement, shelter workers and others. (For more information call 852-6120 ext. 249).

The Women's Justice Center's goal is to give those who support battered women, the elderly, women with low incomes and victims of sexual assault the legal tools they need to stop violence against women.

In a related development, Sheriff Patrick Gallivan at 11 a.m. Monday will introduce a program to aid domestic violence victims who may not otherwise know how or have the means to come forward to report abuse.

Gallivan said that a van equipped with a computer and office and staffed by specially trained deputies and crisis experts will try to reach domestic abuse victims living on the outer rim of Erie County and on the Cattaraugus and Allegany Indian reservations. The van and staff also will visit some schools to educate students about domestic violence.

The van was partially secured through a $489,000 federal grant.

Also on Friday, Gov. George E. Pataki announced grants totaling almost $7 million to strengthen services that help combat violence against women in the state.

Western New York grant recipients include:

Erie County: Erie County district attorney, $93,750, Research Foundation of the State University of New York Buffalo Family Violence Clinic, $36,000, and Hispanics United of Buffalo, $24,750.

Niagara County: Niagara Falls Police Department, $21,750; Lockport Police Department,$24,300; Niagara County Department of Mental Health Rape Crisis Services, $14,000; and Niagara County Sheriff's Department, $49,000.

Cattaraugus County: Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office, $18,750, and Cattaraugus Community Action, $56,250.

Chautauqua County: Jamestown Police Department, $50,250; Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, $82,500; and Dunkirk Police Department, $37,500.

Genesee County: Genesee County Justice Program/Sheriff's Department, $60,000.

Orleans County: Orleans County Department of Social Services, $48,750, and Medina Memorial Health Care System, $34,000.

Wyoming County: Wyoming County District Attorney, $35,000.

News Staff Reporter Helen Jones also contributed to this article.

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