(Albany, NY) Senator Anna M. Kaplan and the New York State Senate Majority passed significant legislation that will assist survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The bills passed by the Senate Majority include protecting survivors of domestic violence from discrimination, safeguarding the new addresses of survivors of sexual offenses, stalking, and human trafficking, and expanding the definition of coercion in the second degree to include the production or dissemination of intimate images.
Senator Anna M. Kaplan said “For far too long, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence have faced significant barriers to justice in our legal system. These survivors have been repeatedly re-victimized by laws that don’t take into consideration the complicated decision one must make before coming forward and speaking out about abuse or breaking the cycle of violence. I’m proud to sponsor legislation that recognizes the difficult situation faced by survivors, and extends their opportunity to seek the justice they deserve, and also to be a co-sponsor of the Senate Majority’s full package of legislation that will tear down further barriers to justice.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, each year more than 10 million women, and men have been physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced physical violence, intimate partner stalking, intimate partner contact sexual violence. Survivors of domestic violence often suffer mental and emotional trauma, and include women, men, and children.
The legislation to support and protect crime victims advanced by the Senate Majority includes:
- Statute of Limitation Reform: This bill, S.2416, sponsored by Senator Anna M. Kaplan, will increase the statute of limitation for civil suits related to injury caused by domestic violence to two years. This bill recognizes the sensitive nature of domestic violence and affords victims an extra year to bring a civil suit.
- Allowing Domestic Violence Victims to Cancel Contracts: This bill, S.2356, will allow those impacted by domestic violence, who have sought and received a permanent order of protection, and are under a multi-year contract for phone, cable or bundle services to break the contract without penalty.
- Domestic Violence Advocate-Victim Privilege: This bill, S.2224-B, will establish that domestic violence advocates may not disclose any communication made by a client to the advocate except in certain, limited circumstances.
- Ensuring Victims Receive Services: This bill, S.1040, will ensure that victims of domestic violence time away from the workplace to obtain services, counseling or to attend court proceedings.
- Mail Ballots for Victims of Domestic Violence: This bill, S.3232A, will allow victims of domestic violence to cast a special ballot by mail.
- Enforcing Orders of Protection: This bill, S.1868, encourages the vigorous enforcement of orders of protection by eliminating the limited liability rules that prevent victims of domestic violence from recovering all of the civil damages owed to them. The bill removes limited liability where a defendant is found liable at trial for the victim's injuries due to failure to obey or enforce an order of protection. This bill does not change the proof required to establish liability, nor does it shift the burden of such proof.
- Expanding the Definition of Coercion: This bill, S.4345, expands the definition of the offense of coercion in the second degree to include the production or dissemination of intimate images. This legislation will offer appropriate punishment to offenders and provides greater protection for victims.
- Tenants’ Rights to Call Police or Emergency Assistance: This bill, S.4657A, establishes the right of tenants to call police or emergency assistance without fear of losing their housing as the result of property owner actions or local nuisance laws. This will help ensure that victims of domestic violence and crime victims can access police or emergency assistance without fear of losing their housing.
- Authorizing Registration Records of Victims of Sexual Violence: This bill, S.257, allows victims of sexual violence protection against their attacker by enabling them to have their voter records sealed. This bill extends protections to victims of sexual violence to whom anonymity is not currently provided.
- Domestic Partners Eligibility for Crime Victims’ Compensation: This bill, S.4958, will allow people maintaining significant and long-term, yet not legally formalized, relationships with homicide victims to be eligible for compensation from the Office of Victim Services.
- Reporting of Domestic Incidents: This bill, S.1243-A, allows a victim of a domestic incident to make a complaint to any local law enforcement agency in the state regardless of where the act took place.
- Employment Related Transportation Expenses: This bill, S.5443, allows employment-related transportation expenses incurred due to the physical injuries sustained as a direct result of a crime.
- Eligibility for the Address Confidentiality Program: This bill, S.5444, expands the category of eligible participants in the NYS Address Confidentiality Program to include victims of sexual offenses, stalking, and human trafficking. Essentially this bill will help protect victims of sexual offenses, victims of stalking, and human trafficking victims by permitting them to keep their current location confidential during Court proceedings.