March 16, 2010

Assembly Passes Legislative Package
Protecting Victims Of Domestic Violence

Legislation would strengthen orders of protection, prohibit discrimination in the workplace against victims of domestic abuse and ban convicted abusers from owning or possessing firearms

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein, Codes Chair Joseph Lentol and Governmental Operations Chair RoAnn Destito today announced the passage of legislation aimed to better protect victims of domestic violence.

In 2008, 18 percent of all homicides in the state involved domestic violence and intimate partner homicides increased by 25 percent, with women comprising 68 percent of such homicides. In addition, half of all female homicide victims in New York State age 16 and older were killed by an intimate partner. Between 2001 and 2005, domestic violence represented 22 percent of nonfatal violent crimes against females 12 and older.

"The incidence of domestic violence in New York State remains very alarming," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Not only must we enact harsher penalties for those who abuse, but we must also try to prevent future violence both ensuring that these criminals do not have access to firearms and by strengthening orders of protection. Laws that focus on preventing crimes and healing the wounded are as important as those that penalize the guilty."

"Many women stay with their abusers because they face various legal and financial obstacles that prevent them from leaving their abusers or doing so safely," said Weinstein (D-Brooklyn). "The economic downturn has made conditions worse for domestic violence victims. With the Assembly's leadership, we have made significant advancements in providing protections for victims. However, we have a lot more work to do. These measures are a step in the right direction as they strengthen the laws to obtain an order of protection, and advance victim safety by securing address confidentiality and providing them protections against discrimination in the workplace and when looking for housing. We also recognize that laws alone are not enough. Therefore, the Assembly is working with the Office of Court Administration to help strengthen the court system's response to domestic violence. We are also engaging law enforcement to help improve the response to intimate partner violence."

"Part of the tragedy of these crimes is that the perpetrator is often someone that the victim is psychologically, emotionally and financially bound to," said Lentol (D-Brooklyn). "It's critical that we pass measures to protect those subjected to domestic abuse, including strengthening orders of protection and giving prosecutors the tools needed to fight these injustices."

"As a long-time advocate for the victims of domestic violence, I know how important it is to get victims the services they need," said Destito (D/WF-Rome). "With my colleagues in the Assembly, I have fought to end domestic violence and remain committed to increasing the safety and security of those who've suffered from this ongoing criminal epidemic. Much work remains to be done, but this year's legislation, including my bill to prohibit housing discrimination against domestic violence victims, takes significant steps to help victims get themselves and their families in a safe environment, and receive the protection and services they deserve."

The Assembly passed legislation that would enable telephone and cable providers to waive the fee for a modified or alternative directory listing for victims of domestic violence who have an order or protection, for the duration of the order (A.6509-A/N. Rivera). To further protect the identity of domestic violence victims, the Assembly also approved a measure that would create the "address confidentiality program" by authorizing the New York Secretary of State to accept service of process and mail for victims of domestic violence who have left their home as a result of the abuse and who seek to keep their address confidential because they fear for their own safety or the safety of their children (A.10180/Weinstein).

Additional legislation passed by the Assembly would, if enacted, dramatically strengthen orders of protection. These bills would:

Other legislation included in the package would: These provisions build on a measure passed by the Assembly in February requiring the translation of orders of protections in court proceedings where an interpreter has been appointed (A.5273-A/Espaillat).

Last year, the Assembly championed a new law extending protections to domestic violence victims under the state Human Rights Law (Ch. 80). The Assembly also approved legislation, which was signed into law, that included expanded training requirements for attorneys for children in domestic violence situations and expanded the scope of orders of protection and information available to law enforcement when low-level harassment charges are brought against the perpetrator of a domestic violence crime (Ch. 476).