New Laws Created to Protect Victims of Domestic and Sexual Abuse

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Domestic violence, harassment, and sexual assault continue to be issues I am concerned about.

Studies reveal that this occurs more than many realize.  A few new laws were recently chaptered and aim to improve victims’ rights and protections.

I supported all of these in the Assembly and I am glad they have been signed into law.

Unlawful Surveillance Laws Tightened

With advancements in technology and more people using smart phones, we can now take pictures and videos to share immediately on the internet.  Unfortunately, some use this capability to victimize or humiliate others.

In New York state, unlawful surveillance is already a crime.

Unlawful surveillance is when a person  records, broadcasts and/or disseminates images without consent or surreptitiously records another when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

While New York’s laws are clear on some aspects of unlawful surveillance, recent changes were needed to close a loophole.

In Clarkstown, a woman sought police action because her ex boyfriend posted a compromising picture of her on social media. Police at the time were unable to press charges because the image wasn’t explicit enough, according to the law.

To address this, we passed legislation that would better protect victims in cases like this.

The law went into effect on November 1, 2014.

Better Protection for Interns

A8201A provides civil rights protections for interns.

I co-sponsored this measure in the Assembly.

It provides unpaid interns the same civil rights protections as paid interns and employees.

According to the bill, case law has held that unpaid volunteers are not protected the same as those who are paid.

This law changes that, to protect those who are completing internships for course credit, so they have the same rights as those who are paid by the employer.

This will better protect interns against sexual assault, and harassment and other forms of discrimination.

Longer Look-Back Period for Repeat Sex Offenders

A2711 concerns the crime of persistent sexual abuse.

This offense allows prosecutors to pursue harsher penalties for  repeat sexual offenders who have two or more convictions of sexual abuse over a 10-year period.

We recently amended the law because the time the offender spent in prison counted towards the 10-year look back period.

Clearly, while in prison, the offender is removed from society and is unable to commit crimes against the general population.

This new law change excludes time spent in prison from the 10-year period.

For example, law enforcement can now look back at a 12-year period to consider charging a perpetrator with the crime of “persistent sexual abuse” if that person had been in prison for two of those years.

Elderly Permitted to Have Companion at Grand Jury Proceedings

A8780 allows a social worker or informal caregiver to be present during grand jury proceedings for a vulnerable elderly person.

Testifying before a grand jury can be stressful for any crime victim but such stress can be particularly hard on the elderly who may also be intimidated by the defendant.

In some cases, the defendant is a former caregiver or abusive family member.

This new law became effective in September.

These are just a few measures that will work to better protect victims and bring justice amid these difficult and emotionally traumatic crimes.

I am working to pass more bills that will better protect women and victims of domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and harassment this session as well.

Our laws on these crimes need to go further to give police the tools they need.

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.