Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the Assembly today passed a package of legislation to support victims of domestic violence, helping them seek justice and reclaim their lives.
"Far too many New Yorkers have faced the horrors of domestic violence and have been forced to live with the terrible and far-reaching effects," Speaker Heastie said. "The Assembly Majority is committed to getting survivors the tools and resources they need to put their lives back together. Today's legislative package will help make that a reality."
Included in today's package are bills to help ensure that domestic violence survivors are able to seek justice. One measure would recognize the economic abuse that often comes with domestic violence, and expand domestic violence crimes to include identity theft, grand larceny and coercion (A.5608, Weinstein). Another bill would exempt parties who fail to obey or enforce an order of protection from limited liability protections, permitting a domestic violence survivor to recover non-economic as well as economic damages (A.5614, Weinstein). Also included is legislation to increase the statute of limitations for civil suits related to an injury caused by domestic violence from one year to two years (A.1945, Zebrowski). Additionally, the Assembly passed legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against domestic violence survivors (A.5618, Weinstein).
"The effects of domestic violence are pervasive, affecting every aspect of a survivor's life," Assemblymember Helene Weinstein said. "The legislation we passed today will ensure that at every step, from encounters with law enforcement, to having their day in court, to stemming employer discrimination, survivors have the tools 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. "This bill recognizes how these crimes can upend a person's life and delay access to services by doubling the amount of time a victim has to sue their abuser."
Under current law, domestic violence victims need an order of protection to terminate their lease early. Legislation passed today would expand the types of documentation of abuse that may be provided, along with eliminating the requirement that the victim alert their co-tenant who is often also their abuser that they are terminating the lease (A.4267, Hevesi). The package also includes a bill that would allow domestic violence victims to terminate telephone and cable contracts without facing cancellation penalties (A.5318, Rozic).
"The effects of domestic violence can seep into every aspect of a survivors life, affecting everything from their health and well-being to their housing," Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi said. "My bill will make it easier for survivors to break a residential lease so that they can ensure their physical safety and financial security."
"Multi-year or ‘bundling' telephone and television contracts may save consumers money, but they also have the potential to contractually bind a survivor to his or her abuser," said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. "My legislation would allow survivors who have documented evidence of abuse to break such a contract without penalty. There is no contract sacred enough to justify endangering the safety or life of a domestic violence survivor."
Seeking help or medical attention should not put survivors at risk from their abusers. Today's legislative package 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.2832, Cymbrowitz). Another bill would allow survivors of domestic violence to vote by mail, even if they remain in the county where they are registered, giving survivors the ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote without fear of running into their abuser (A.219-A, Paulin).
"It takes immense courage for victims of domestic violence to seek help and escape their abusers," said Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz. "This bill will ensure that victims' privacy can be maintained from their abuser when they seek physical or mental health services, so that they can access the resources they need."
"For survivors of domestic violence, the day-to-day activities most of us take for granted can turn into dangerous or potentially life threatening situations," said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. "By allowing domestic violence survivors to cast their ballots by mail in the same manner as an absentee ballot, we can ensure they are able to safely exercise their right to vote."
Legislation passed today includes provisions to provide survivors with tools and resources necessary to get help, including a bill that would clarify what information law enforcement and the courts are required to provide to victims of domestic violence including verbal and written notice of their legal rights and services available to them (A.7395, Weinstein). Another bill would ensure victims of domestic violence receive appropriate care, requiring hospitals to establish, disseminate and maintain policies to effectively train employees to identify and aid victims of domestic violence (A.2850-A, Lavine).
"First responders and health care workers - especially those in hospitals - are often the first ones to see the signs of domestic violence, and it is critical that they have the training necessary to help survivors," Assemblymember Charles Lavine said. "The Assembly Majority will continue working to ensure that bureaucracy does not stand in the way of domestic violence survivors getting the help they need."