By Assemblyman Will Barclay
October was national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While I realize we are now in November, because I missed writing about this topic last month and because I strongly believe we need to continue to raise awareness about domestic violence, I am writing about this issue this month.
The good news is that in New York from 2011 to 2012, homicides as a result of domestic violence dropped 17%, from 89 to 74. The bad news is that while total assaults in New York increased by less than 1% since 2011, intimate partner assaults increased by 6%. Jefferson, Onondaga and Oswego counties also all saw their numbers of aggravated assault involving an intimate partner increase from 2011 to 2012.
These numbers demonstrate that domestic violence continues to be a problem and that we need to do more on the local and state levels in attempt to prevent these tragic events from taking place.
In 2012, the state legislature passed and the governor signed into law the Domestic Violence Omnibus Bill which, among other things, established the crime of “aggravated family offense” for offenders who commit certain misdemeanor-level offenses and have a previous conviction for a specified misdemeanor or felony against a family or household member within the past five years.
This new charge is an attempt to get after those repeat offenders who may have been slipping through the system because it was failing to recognize the totality of offenders’ crimes. In one case, a perpetrator of domestic violence had 132 prior convictions, many of which stemmed from assaults against his partner.
This legislation also allows victims of domestic violence to have their insurance claims, forms, or billing correspondence for medical and mental health services sent to a confidential address which protects the details of such services and the address of the victim from the abuser who may also be the insurance policyholder. This provision provides further protection for victims of domestic violence by allowing them confidentiality when it comes to their medical services and prevents a perpetrator from knowing what the victim is up to and where he or she may be.
This year, the state, partnering with the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and others, has set up the State Automated Victim Information and Notification Network (SAVIN).
SAVIN allows victims of domestic violence to sign up and receive notices of when orders of protection are issued. This system can be accessed at www.nyalert.gov.
According to experts, one of the most dangerous times for victims of domestic violence is when an order of protection is first served on the perpetrator.
The SAVIN system puts in place an order of protection automatic alert system to let victims know when a Family Court order of protection is actually served. With this alert in place, victims can take appropriate steps to protect themselves or seek assistance with friends and family.
Often, there is a short period of time between when someone applies for an order of protection and when it is actually served to the other party. With this alert, there is no guessing as to when the order of protection is actually issued and the victims are automatically notified through the system.
Also, this year, the state extended the 90-day limit on stays at domestic violence shelters. Residents of a domestic violence shelter may be granted an additional 90-day stay if they continue to need emergency services and temporary housing.
In our area, we are fortunate to have excellent agencies in place that help victims of domestic violence and abuse. Vera House in Onondaga County manages a 24-hour crisis support hotline for people who may be in danger, need advice or access to resources. That number is (315) 468-3260. Oswego County residents may call the county’s abuse and assault hotline at (315) 342-1600. Jefferson County residents may call the Victim Assistance Center’s 24-hour hotline at (315) 782-1855. There is also a 24-hour state hotline managed by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. That number is 1-800-942-6906. Information is available at their website as well at http://www.opdv.ny.gov/
It should be stressed however that if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, you or the person you know should call 911 immediately.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
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