According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has experienced domestic violence, upwards of 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year, and 75 percent of all Americans personally know a victim of domestic violence.
The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence reports that nearly 450,000 domestic-violence incidents are reported each year — but only about 50 percent of all victimizations are reported.
Victims of domestic violence experience physical pain, emotional trauma, and financial hardships that can be especially severe since these crimes are committed by someone with whom the victim has a close, often intimate, personal relationship.
It is vital that we enact laws to ensure that victims of domestic violence have access to the assistance necessary to rebuild their lives. I’ve worked hard in the Assembly to help protect victims and provide the appropriate services to help these individuals move forward.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it is important that we all do what we can to bring awareness to this problem and continue our efforts to help victims. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed in 1981 as a day of unity. The day was created by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and was formed to ensure that victims of domestic violence know that help is available if they needed it. Organizations quickly joined the cause and the day of unity was transformed to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
This past session, the Assembly passed laws that I supported that will better protect and help victims of domestic violence. We have a duty to help protect victims of domestic violence — whether the abuse is physical and/or psychological — by enacting laws that reduce the incidence of domestic abuse and protect the rights of victims.
One law updates the definition of “victim of domestic violence” by expanding the description of family and household member and expanding the list of crimes considered to be domestic violence to include stalking, strangulation and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation (Ch. 11 of 2011). This law will ensure that victims of domestic violence are not arbitrarily precluded from services based on incomplete definitions of family or household member and victim of domestic violence.
I also supported a law enacted this session that changes the expiration date of an order of protection issued in relation to domestic violence offenses (Ch. 9 of 2011). Under this new law, final orders of protection will be effective at the time of sentencing. This change will better protect victims because orders of protection will be in place for a longer period of time, by avoiding any overlap with temporary orders of protection in place prior to sentencing, further limiting the possible interaction an abuser can have with the victim.
Domestic violence is a horrible crime and more work must be done to help prevent abuse and provide services for victims. By raising awareness and strengthening our laws, we can help prevent domestic violence and ensure victims receive vital services.