In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, State Senator Cathy Young (R,I,C - Olean) and members of the New York State Senate today passed a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence.
Senate action on the legislation was announced at a Capitol news conference where members of the Senate Majority were joined by Mrs. New York State 2007 Lori Donaudy of Smithtown, Long Island. A former victim of domestic abuse, Lori’s platform as Mrs. New York includes raising awareness of domestic violence, supporting victims, and raising funds for Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation.
"Domestic violence victims need to know that New York State is serious about protecting their right to leave any situation where abuse is involved," said Senator John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport).
"The legislation we are unveiling today will help us provide these victims with the ability to take control of their lives and the assurance that they are not alone in this battle. I applaud Ms. Donaudy for having the courage to speak on behalf of those who may not be able to and for working with us to make the changes that are necessary."
"The Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices is taking an aggressive approach to safeguard all New Yorkers from violence," said Task Force Chairman Senator Marty Golden (R-C, Brooklyn). "We have advanced an aggressive criminal justice agenda including cracking down on child porn and Internet predators; locating criminals who are missing from the Sex Offender Registry; ensuring student safety on school buses with the use of video monitoring; and raising penalties for thugs who attack senior citizens. Today, we are taking another aggressive step with this domestic violence package, which includes my bill to protect children when an act of domestic violence is committed in their presence."
"The time is long overdue for the topic of domestic violence to emerge from a 'hidden, taboo discussion' to an open, nationwide conversation about its devastating impact on society," said Lori Donaudy, the reigning Mrs. New York United States 2007. "Domestic violence victims are most often made to feel embarrassed and shamed into a corner of silence, which only results in further empowerment of the perpetrators to continue their torment without consequence, or government intervention. Giving voice to the abused, from the most privileged in our society to the least, will help send a message that everyone has rights under the law to live life free of the enslaved feeling that domestic abuse breeds, which is unconstitutional at its very core."
Endangering the Welfare of a Child
The Senate passed two bills today (S.2034) and (S.1755), sponsored by Senator Golden and Senator Mary Lou Rath (R-C-I, Williamsville) respectively, to strengthen existing law and establish the crime of endangering the welfare of a child when an act of domestic violence is committed in the presence of a child.
"This legislation passed by a 59-1 margin in 2006 and I once again expect overwhelming support from my Senate colleagues," stated Senator Golden. "Children in homes where domestic violence occurs face a greater risk that their emotional, physical and mental development will be harmed. Society as a whole must recognize the potential dangers faced by our children and take the necessary steps to protect their future."
"This legislation is intended to prevent young lives from being damaged," said Senator Rath. "Common sense and extensive professional studies show that children who come from violent environments are far more likely to have behavior and competency problems than those from non-violent families. Long-term, this bill is aimed at breaking the cycle of domestic abuse by diminishing a child’s exposure to violence."
Studies indicate that children who witness domestic violence exhibit more aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and low cognitive, verbal and motor skills.
Orders of Protection
The Senate today passed a bill (S.3646), sponsored by Senator Vincent Leibell (R-C-I, Patterson), to authorize family courts to issue orders of protection for witnesses called to testify in family court. Very often witnesses are fearful of testifying because it may put them in danger. Providing an order of protection will help ensure the safety of witnesses.
"It is imperative for those testifying as witnesses in family court to feel safe and protected so that they may provide the crucial information necessary to help resolve the issue at hand," said Senator Leibell. "Witnesses in these cases often put their own lives in danger in order to help others, and deserve every safeguard possible."
In addition, the Senate passed legislation (S.894), sponsored by Senator Dale M. Volker (R-C-I, Depew), to allow courts to issue orders of protection for a period of time beyond that currently authorized or a permanent order of protection. Other states have enacted similar provisions to provide increased and continued protection for both domestic violence and stalking victims.
"An order of protection is often needed to protect an individual from domestic violence, stalking, and other actions that threaten the victim and his/her family," said Senator Volker. "It is an important criminal justice tool, one that allows the victim the confidence to live productive and normal lives without the threat of being harmed from the accused. Providing courts with the maximum discretion to issue orders of protection for a longer than currently authorized, or a permanent order of protection, is warranted and appropriate."
The bills were sent to the Assembly.
The Senate today also announced the introduction of legislation that would:
> require GPS monitoring on persons who have an order of protection issued against them (S.4796, Senator Andrew Lanza, R-I, Staten Island);
"The effects of domestic abuse are devastating and far reaching and we must provide the information and tools to address this plaguing problem," said Senator Lanza. "The legislation I have introduced would require GPS devices to be issued with orders of protection. Defendants routinely violate orders of protection and this legislation will go far in strengthening victims confidence that they will be protected."
> require a court, when issuing a temporary order of protection, to suspend a firearm license, and order the immediate surrender of all firearms if the individual has been previously convicted of violating an order of protection by inflicting physical injury upon someone (S.4066, Senator Robach, R-C-I-WF, Rochester);
"Enacting this bill just makes sense," said Senator Robach. "Those who have a history of domestic violence or have been convicted of causing physical harm to someone, should not be allowed to possess a firearm if they have violated an order of protection against the person they have hurt. This bill goes a long way to help protect those who are trying hard to protect themselves through an order of protection."
> permit the use of closed-circuit television for the victims of alleged domestic violence to testify in court (S.4875, Senator Young, R-C-I, Olean)
"Violent abusers can terrify and intimidate their victims during court proceedings," said Senator Young. "To break the cycle of abuse, victims should be in a non-threatening environment when giving testimony. They shouldn’t be stared down by someone who has physically and emotionally tortured them. Closed circuit testimony will help ensure that justice will be served."
> allow electronic filing of orders of protection (S.4704, Senator Volker, R-C-I, Depew).
"When it comes to an order of protection, timing is everything," said Senator Volker. "The victim should not have to wait up to three weeks for the Courts to put forth an order of protection against someone who is accused of violence towards that individual. During these times, emotions are running high and by permitting the Court to transmit the orders directly to the sheriff via an ‘E-Filing’ program, instead of requiring the victim or court official to physically bring the order to the enforcement agency, these orders can be served more quickly and better protect the victim of domestic violence and/or stalking."
Earlier in the legislative session, the Senate passed the following bills related to the protection of victims of domestic violence that would:
> include stalking by technological means -- including illegal wiretapping, cell phones, caller ID, the Internet, GPS, and any other type of tracking device -- as an element of the current crimes of stalking in the first, second, and third degrees (S.884, Senator Trunzo, R, Brentwood);
"New technologies that bring added convenience and security to our lives can also be twisted by stalkers and sexual predators to harass, intimidate, and attack their victims," said Senator Trunzo. "My Senate colleagues and I have passed my legislation to ensure that law enforcement can prosecute an individual who uses any technology means for stalking. This ensures our stalking laws keep up with any new inventions and services."
> add victims of domestic violence to the list of protected classes who shall not be discriminated against by an employer in terms of hiring or employment practices (S.3052, Senator Robach).
"In order to help victims of domestic violence, it is imperative to break the cycle of abuse," said Senator Robach. "This is nearly impossible if victims cannot find or keep employment and a way to maintain independence. This legislation would help ensure their jobs by making it illegal for employers to discriminate against abuse victims."
To date, there has been no action in the State Assembly on either of these two bills.