Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed as a result of violent crime. Surviving victims are often left with physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. To remind people of the pain involved in these crimes and to try to prevent future crimes from happening, April has been designated in New York State as Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
New York State has created general laws to help aid all crime victims. For example, it is essential to protect persons from criminal retribution or possible employment penalties when they agree to testify in a criminal proceeding. A person who threatens a witness or crime victim can be charged in New York State with an additional offense ranging up to a Class B violent felony, depending upon the severity of the intimidation. Judges may consider whether a defendant has attempted to intimidate victims or witnesses when deciding upon a request for bail and can revoke bail if intimidation occurs after an accused criminal's release.
Crime victims and witnesses may be provided an order of protection from harassment or dangerous behavior by the defendant. The courts can punish defendants who willfully disobey orders of protection, without posing a double jeopardy problem that could hinder a criminal prosecution.
In recognition of the special needs of child crime victims and witnesses, the Senate helped establish standards to minimize the trauma children under the age of 18 can experience when participating in criminal proceedings. A team including a prosecutor, law enforcement personnel and social service agency personnel should be utilized when possible to minimize the number of times a child must recite the events of a crime and to foster trust and confidence in the victim. When appropriate, under standards provided by law, a child witness should be permitted to testify via live, two-way, closed-circuit television. Another law also requires the court to consider any allegations of domestic violence when hearing child custody or visitation cases to help ensure that the court's decisions are made in the best interests of the child involved.
In this year's State 2006-07 budget, crime victim programs will have an increase in funding. The Legislature provided an additional $1.75 million in funding for the following initiatives: $1 million for programs for victims of domestic violence; $250,000 for delivering domestic violence legal services; $200,000 for a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) grant program to provide Statewide access to SAFE services for victims of sexual assault; $120,000 for the State Coalition Against Sexual Assault for continued assistance and support of the State Victims' Assistance Academy; $100,000 for the John Jay College Criminal Justice Careers scholarship program; and $80,000 for the enhancement of services provided at child advocacy centers.
Many Victim Assistance Programs are funded through the New York State Crime Victims Board. Local programs include Catholic Charities in Montgomery County (842-3384), Rape Crisis/Sexual Assault Support Services, located in Gloversville (773-0040), Fulton County District Attorney Crime Victim Assistance Program (736-5511) and the Family Counseling Center of Fulton County, Inc. (725-4310).