Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson (D-Rochester/Chili/Henrietta) announced that he helped pass legislation to provide better assistance, protection and justice to victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a serious issue in our communities, Bronson said. We need to bring it out from the shadows so more victims can get the help and support they so desperately need. This legislation creates a path for victims of domestic violence to overcome their trauma and create a better life for themselves.
While domestic violence is severely underreported, the statistics are still startling. In the United States, over 10 million women and men are victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner each year.1
Ending work discrimination
The legislation includes a measure to prevent 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).
People who have suffered from domestic violence should not be defined by it, Bronson said. Its important that we make sure their abuse doesnt stop them from keeping their job or achieving gainful employment.
Supporting and protecting victims
The legislative package includes a bill that enacts the Domestic Violence Escalation Prevention Act, which prevents certain perpetrators of domestic violence from owning a firearm (A.5025). To further keep guns out of the hands of these criminals, an additional measure requires convicted abusers to surrender their firearms, closing a potentially deadly loophole in state penal law (A.980). While individuals convicted of domestic violence felonies are prohibited from owning guns, current law doesnt apply to those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.
To help victims distance themselves from their abusers, the legislative package also:
- allows victims of domestic violence to break a telephone, cable or broadband contract, as well as a shared or family plan wireless contract, without incurring cancellation fees (A.1056, A.946);
- codifies requirements for 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
- requires 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).
Helping serve justice
Every victim deserves justice, Bronson said. Its important we give survivors the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable.
The legislation includes a measure allowing judges expanded discretion in sentencing defendants who are victims of domestic violence where the abuse was a significant factor in the commission of an offense (A.3110). These victims would be able to seek lesser sentences, alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) programs and apply for resentencing if they are already serving their sentence. A three-part criterion will be used to determine eligibility based on whether the domestic violence was occurring at the time of the offense, if it was a contributing factor or if a sentence under existing law would be excessive.
The Assemblys legislation would also:
- ensure victims of domestic violence understand their legal rights and access to services during criminal and family court proceedings by simplifying the language in court documents (A.5921);
- allow victims of domestic violence to receive damages for economic and non-economic losses from all defendants found liable in civil court (A.1390); and
- increase the statute of limitations in actions for injuries occurring as a result of domestic violence in civil court proceedings from one to two years (A.1516).
Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault should know that they are never alone, noted Bronson. Help and support are always available. The Willow Domestic Violence Centers toll-free hotline is open 24 hours a day at 585-222-7233. For additional information, visit willowcenterny.org, the New York State Office of Victim Services website at ovs.ny.gov or the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence website at opdv.ny.gov.