April 29, 2014

Assembly Provides Support and Strengthens Protections for Domestic Violence Victims

Seeking to stem the prevalence of domestic violence incidents and repeat domestic violence offenses throughout the state, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol today announced the passage of a legislative package aimed at strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence and enhancing health care professionals' ability to aid these victims in the recovery process.

"No individual or family should ever have to suffer the horrific effects of domestic abuse," Speaker Silver said. "Unfortunately, statistics have shown that domestic violence incidents are still pervasive in New York, which is why the Assembly has continued its strong stance against domestic violence and has always fought to ensure the safety and empowerment of domestic violence victims. Today's package of legislation will help victims break free from the vicious cycle of domestic abuse that they are often forced to withstand and aid them on the long and difficult path of permanent healing and rebuilding."

According to data compiled by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, a total of 329,164 domestic violence and sexual assault hotline calls were received in New York State in 2012. New York State's two Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotlines received 11,234 calls in 2012, a 29 percent decrease from 2011. However, the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline received 122,751 calls in 2012, a seven percent increase from 2011.

A measure included in the package seeks to strengthen the enforcement of orders of protection by permitting victims to recover non-economic damages from any or all defendants found liable for failure to obey or enforce domestic violence orders of protection or temporary orders of protection (A.899, Weinstein). To that effect, the bill would exempt these defendants from limited liability provisions and give victims the same right of recovery as workers compensation claimants and automobile accident victims.

"Orders of protection are a significant way to shield domestic violence victims from any further attacks at the hands of their abuser," Weinstein said. "While New York State has taken many steps to ensure that orders of protection are strongly and effectively enforced, those tasked with such enforcement must be held accountable when they fail to do so. Today's package of bills helps close loopholes that remain in the current law and truly works to keep domestic violence victims safe."

"The effects of a domestic violence attack are brutal and often long-term on every single level - physically, emotionally and psychologically," Lentol said. "With today's legislation, the Assembly further reinforces its proactive policy in fighting domestic violence. Additionally, we have made sure that there are a number of resources and support services available to domestic violence victims to keep them safe and help them move on with their lives."

The legislative package also includes measures that would:

An additional bill would enact the domestic violence escalation prevention act, which makes it illegal for an individual to possess a firearm if he or she has committed a family offense (A.6390, O'Donnell). Provisions included in the bill add certain domestic violence offenses to the list of "serious offenses" for which purchasing or possessing a license for a firearm, rifle or shotgun would constitute a class A misdemeanor.

Earlier this legislative session, the Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit discrimination against victims of domestic violence in employment while also requiring reasonable accommodations for victims (A.898, Weinstein) and would require the interpretation of orders of protection in court proceedings where an interpreter has already been appointed (A.1084-A, Weinstein).