Tuesday, Oct. 1, marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time for recognizing the individuals and organizations that work tirelessly to prevent domestic violence and renewing the Assemblys commitment to stand up for victims of this terrible crime.
According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has been subjected to domestic violence during her lifetime and nearly 75 percent of Americans personally know someone who has been a victim.1 Here in New York State, nearly 450,000 domestic-violence incidents are reported every year; however, it is estimated that just as many violent acts go unreported.2
Victims of domestic violence experience physical pain, emotional trauma and financial hardships that can be especially severe because these crimes are committed by someone with whom the victim has a personal, often intimate, relationship. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 years old are among those most likely to experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner, but these crimes affect people from all walks of life, irrespective of gender, race or sexual orientation.3
As elected officials, we have a responsibility to enact laws that protect victims and provide them with the necessary resources for rebuilding their lives. Moreover, we must bring greater awareness to this problem and eliminate the stigma that dissuades victims from seeking assistance.
Guns and domestic violence can be a deadly combination. This year, the Assembly passed laws that I sponsored that will help reduce the incidence of domestic violence and protect the rights of victims. The New York SAFE Act protects victims by requiring courts to suspend or revoke state pistol permits when issuing an order of protection if it is determined that the firearm could be used against the victim (Ch. 1 of 2013). Another law provides victims with new telephone numbers, free of charge, to help them rebuild their lives without additional financial burdens (Ch. 202 of 2013).
We also passed a legislative package that would prohibit discrimination against victims of domestic violence (A.898, A.5387), require orders of protection to be interpreted into the native language of those involved (A.1084) and provide notice on orders of protection that the protected party cannot be arrested for violating the order (A.6547-A). Finally, we passed the entire 10-point Womens Equality Act (WEA) (A.8070), which prevents landlords from discriminating against victims and allows temporary orders of protection to be obtained via electronic means, rather than requiring victims to appear in person.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed in 1981 as a national day of unity. It was established by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to ensure that victims know help is available if they need it. Today, we have made considerable progress toward achieving this goal, but there is still more work to be done. By increasing awareness and strengthening our laws, we can help prevent acts of domestic violence and ensure that victims receive vital services.