Assemblywoman Jenne: Domestic Violence Legislative Package Protects Victims
May 12, 2017
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, announced the Assembly passed legislation this week to provide better assistance, protection and justice for victims of domestic violence. “It can be incredibly difficult for victims of domestic violence to come forward,” Assemblywoman Jenne said. “We need to create a culture that encourages victims to speak up and seek help and that helps them when they do. This legislation is a major step forward and helps make sure that the women, men and children suffering from domestic violence get the help they need.” Despite being chronically underreported, over 10 million women and men are victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner each year, Assemblywoman Jenne noted. Survivors and their loved ones often deal with trauma years after the abuse has stopped. The Assembly legislative package seeks to meet the urgent needs of those affected and ensure everyone who seeks help can get it. Renewal House in St. Lawrence County served 814 domestic violence victims in 2016 and provided safe housing to 63 individuals with an average length of stay of 20 days. Renewal House Executive Director Ilene J. Burke said the number of victims served by the agency served 765 victims in 2013, 698 victims in 2014 and 645 victims in 2015. The agency, which also serves victims of sexual assault, said Renewal House served 1,036 individuals in 2016. Renewal House assisted 222 victims of sexual assault in 2016, the highest number in the past four years. The agency served 195 sexual assault victims in 2015, 201 victims in 2014 and 218 victims in 2013. Jill Parker, executive director of the Victims Assistance Center in Jefferson County, said her agency provided 765 domestic violence shelter nights in 2016. She said her agency handled 290 hotline calls last year and handled 2,475 new cases in 2016. She said those cases included domestic violence, sexual assault and other acts of violence. The Victims Assistance Center served 4,169 individuals in 2016. Ms. Parker said her agency's response team advocates responded with law enforcement to 2,296 situations involving domestic violence calls last year. To prevent workplace discrimination and help victims distance themselves from their abusers, the legislative package:
- Prevents employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence as well as allow these employees reasonable accommodations in the workplace as they address issues, such as counseling or court appearances, related to their abuse (A.1481-A).
- Enacts the Domestic Violence Escalation Prevention Act, which prevents certain perpetrators of domestic violence from owning a firearm (A.5025).
- Requires convicted abusers to surrender their firearms, closing a potentially deadly loophole in state penal law (A.980). The legislation would tie state law to federal law.
- Allows victims of domestic violence to break a telephone, cable or broadband contract, as well as a shared or family plan wireless contract, without penalty (A.1056, A.946);
- Requires health insurers to provide victims of domestic violence the ability to have claim information and benefits sent to an alternative mailing address (A.4060); and
- Codifies requirements for hospitals to establish procedures regarding domestic violence and ongoing training programs for staff, and to designate a hospital staff member to coordinate services for victims (A.4014).
- Ensure victims of domestic violence understand their rights during criminal and family court proceedings by simplifying the language in court documents (A.5921); and
- Allow victims of domestic violence to receive economic and non-economic damages from any or all defendants found liable in civil court (A.1390).