Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz today announced the passage of a package of legislation aimed to strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence and offer support for survivors seeking to reclaim their lives.
"Domestic violence is a heartbreaking reality for far too many in New York State," Speaker Heastie said. "The Assembly Majority is dedicated to ensuring that those that have faced the horrors of domestic violence have the tools they need to put their lives back together. Our legislation will help them do that."
"From extending the statute of limitations to ensuring survivors are provided with crucial information on legal protections and safety and shelter, I am so proud of the legislation the Assembly passed today," Assemblymember Dinowitz said. "We will continue to push for policies that protect and support survivors of domestic violence."
The package includes legislation that would provide tools for rehabilitation, such as a bill that would clarify what information both law enforcement and the courts are required to provide to victims of domestic violence including both verbal and written notice of their legal rights and available services (A.5921, Weinstein).
Other measures in the package would enable victims of domestic violence to secure their continued safety by permitting them to cancel cell phone contracts without penalty or request the provider to issue a new phone number (A.946-A, Rozic). Similarly, another bill would allow domestic violence victims to terminate television, telephone or satellite contracts without penalty (A.1056, Rozic).
Today's legislative package also includes measures aimed to protect and support domestic violence survivors by prohibiting employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence and requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for medical assistance, counseling and other related services (A.1481-A, Weinstein).
Other legislation included in today's package would offer domestic violence survivors more protections and opportunities for justice. One bill (A.1390, Weinstein) would eliminate parties who fail to obey or enforce an order of protection from limited liability protections. Another measure would increase the statute of limitations for civil suits related to an injury caused by domestic violence from one year to two years (A.1516, Zebrowski). Other legislation included in the package would expand upon existing alternative sentencing provisions for domestic violence victims and allow judges discretion in sentencing victims whose abuse was a significant contributing factor to the offense (A.3110, Aubry). Under this bill, victims of domestic violence would not be met with harsh punitive sentences but instead with compassion and assistance.
To ensure victims of domestic violence receive appropriate care, the legislative package includes a bill that would require hospitals to establish, disseminate and maintain policies to effectively train employees to identify and aid victims of domestic violence (A.4014-A, Lavine). This bill codifies current regulations to ensure hospitals continue to follow existing protocols. Other legislation would allow for reimbursement of shelter costs and crime scene clean-up for certain non-injured victims (A.10275, Peoples-Stokes).
The Assembly today also passed a resolution to proclaim May 8, 2018 as Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Day in the State of New York.
Earlier this session, the Assembly passed additional legislation aimed at increasing the security of survivors of domestic violence. This includes a measure under which health insurers and health maintenance organizations would be required to provide victims of domestic violence with the option of providing alternative contact information so that they are able to access their claims and benefit information without fear that any correspondence may be intercepted by their abuser (A.4060, Cymbrowitz). Another bill would allow survivors of domestic violence to vote by mail, even if they remain in the county where they are registered (A.7009, Paulin), giving survivors the ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote without fear of running into their abuser.
"It is unconscionable that survivors of domestic violence would face discrimination as a result of the abuse they suffered," Assemblymember Helene Weinstein said. "The bills we passed today show the Assembly Majority's dedication to ensuring survivors of domestic assault and their children have the resources they need to rebuild their lives."
"Those who find themselves in abusive circumstances need every measure of support we can afford them in order to reclaim their lives and move on from the trauma of abuse," Assemblymember Jeff Aubry said. "The bills in this package would take steps toward a more compassionate culture around attaining basic needs like housing and employment as well as balanced justice for survivors."
"It's important we do all we can to protect domestic violence victims from their abusers," said Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz. "The legislation we approved earlier in the session will provide protections for victims of domestic violence so they can access the health care services and benefits they need without being required to disclose personal information about themselves that could end up jeopardizing their safety, making them dangerously vulnerable to additional mistreatment by their abuser."
"The right to vote is sacred, but being a survivor of domestic violence can make it difficult to cast one's ballot safely and securely," said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. "It may not be safe for a survivor to vote in person in the same county where her abuser lives. This legislation would give victims of domestic violence peace of mind and security by allowing them to vote by mail, even when they remain in the county in which they are registered."
"The effects of heinous crimes, like domestic violence, are often far reaching and financially burdensome to survivors and their families," said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. "This legislation would help lift that burden by permitting these individuals to be compensated for shelter costs and unreimbursed crime scene cleanup costs."
"By requiring hospitals to establish policies that aid in the identification of victims of domestic violence, we better ensure victims receive the appropriate health and community services they need to recover from the abuse inflicted on them," said Assemblymember Charles Lavine. "With well-trained hospital personnel, intervention steps can be initiated earlier so that victims not only are protected from further violence but they also receive much sooner the health and rehabilitative services they need to rebuild their lives."
"Domestic violence has far-reaching consequences that destabilize the lives of its direct victims and all others involved," said Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski. "It is important that our laws recognize the realities of the fear and isolation that affects survivors on their paths to recovery and independence. This critical legislation is necessary to give New Yorkers the support they need after these life-altering ordeals."
"Those who have suffered the horrors of domestic violence should not be penalized when putting their lives back together," said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. "I am so proud that this package of legislation will make it easier for survivors to move forward and rebuild their lives."
"One person suffering from domestic violence is one too many. But, in our country one in four women and one in seven men in our country will face severe physical domestic violence in their lifetime," Assemblymember Aridia Espinal said. "By bringing awareness to domestic violence, we can encourage survivors to seek the resources and support they need, and hopefully change social and community norms to promote healthy and equitable behavior."
Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said: "Year after year, New York State continues to have the highest demand for domestic violence services in the country. This is unacceptable. The measures passed by the New York State Assembly today will go a long way toward providing critical services to domestic violence survivors, making sure survivors understand their rights and available services, and ensuring victims who defend themselves against their abusers are treated compassionately by the criminal justice system."