October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

David J. Valesky

October 14, 2005

Did you know that every 15 seconds a woman in this country is the victim of violence at the hands of a husband, lover or domestic partner? In fact, battery is the single major cause of injury to women, harming more individuals than auto accidents, muggings and sexual assaults combined. Sadly, nearly half of all women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives.

These are frightening statistics but it is essential that we talk about these facts this October as we observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When you read the statistics it becomes obvious that domestic violence likely touches all of our lives or the lives of our loved ones in some significant way. And, I believe, it will take all of us working together to properly address the impact of domestic violence.

That is why I was delighted to attend the Madison County Domestic Violence Coalition meeting two weeks ago. Most of all, I was impressed with the number of people at the meeting that was organized by Liberty Resources, with representatives of organizations from Madison County, including Community Action, Bridges of Madison County, the Madison County Sheriffs' Department, Community Memorial Hospital, Madison County Courts and several Madison County social services organizations.

This coalition is a true cross section of the community, symbolizing the partnerships and cooperation needed to effectively identify, support and protect victims of domestic violence.

This is an issue that is very important to me, both as member of the community and as your representative in the Senate. That is why earlier this year I sponsored legislation to allow judges to weigh a history of domestic abuse when determining bail. I believe allowing the courts to take this history under consideration would protect victims from retribution by their attackers as the judicial system works toward an appropriate punishment.

Yet, while we see the necessary cooperation in Madison County, domestic violence is yet another vital issue that suffers on the statewide level because of business as usual in Albany. Instead of working together to propose real solutions on which we can all agree, the Assembly passes certain proposals and the Senate passes others, giving us yet another slate of one house bills and no real solutions.

Just look at this year’s session. A bill to expand domestic violence victims’ access to Family Court passed the Assembly, but did not move out of committee in the Senate. A bill to increase the duration of criminal court orders of protection passed the Senate, but did not move in the Assembly. A bill to remove firearms from those convicted of violating orders of protection passed Assembly, but did not move in the Senate. A bill to prohibit discrimination against victims of domestic violence in housing passed the Assembly, but did not move in the Senate. The list goes on and on.

To make real progress against domestic violence and many other important issues, our state needs to get past business as usual in Albany. We could certainly learn something from coalitions like the one in Madison County. Because only by working together and marshalling all of our resources will we be able to effectively combat domestic violence.