Assemblywoman Buttenschon: Our Laws Should Help Victims of Domestic Violence Take Back Their Lives

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Utica/Rome) announced that she passed legislation to help victims of domestic violence regain their independence and hold their abusers accountable.

“Empowering victims of domestic violence to leave their abusers and begin the next chapter of their lives is our moral responsibility,” Buttenschon said. “To do this, we have to make New York a safe place to come forward. This legislation provides survivors with vital resources and support to break free and pursue justice.”

In 2016, Oneida County had the highest number of reported cases of domestic violence in the state, with New York having the most reported cases in the country. In 2014, there were 71 cases reported per 10,000 residents in the county, compared to 44 reports statewide, excluding New York City.[1] Since domestic violence cases are severely underreported, the high statistics only prove how crucial the Assembly’s legislation is to help those who haven’t come forward feel safe enough to do so, Buttenschon noted.

In many domestic abuse situations, abusers control the victim’s finances or have isolated victims from family, friends and resources, inhibiting their ability to leave.[2] To address this, the Assembly’s legislation:

  • allows victims of domestic violence to cancel telephone or cable contracts (A.5318);
  • allows victims to vote by special ballot by mail (A.219-A);
  • requires hospitals to establish policies and procedures regarding identifying and notifying victims of domestic abuse of available services (A.2850-A); and
  • requires health insurers to provide victims with the option to have claim information and benefits sent to an alternative mailing address (A.2832).

The package also includes a measure to streamline the procedure for early lease termination by victims of domestic violence, prohibit landlords from disclosing the termination of tenancy to future landlords and impose penalties for violations (A.4267).

“No one should feel trapped in an abusive situation by a cellphone plan or lease,” Buttenschon said. “By giving victims the ability to cancel contracts or vote by mail, these bills help survivors cut ties, making it harder for abusers to contact victims, giving them the peace of mind to begin rebuilding their lives.”

To help victims of domestic violence gain financial security, the legislation prohibits employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence (A.5618). The bill also requires employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for employees to attend court appearances and seek critical services related to their abuse.

Additionally, the Assembly’s legislation helps victims take the often difficult step of facing their abusers in court with a measure to allow victims of domestic violence to receive damages for economic and non-economic loses from all defendants found liable in civil court (A.5614). The package also includes bills to increase the statute of limitations for a civil action to recover damages for injuries arising from domestic violence (A.1945) and ensure victims understand their legal rights and access to services during court proceedings (A.7395).

Further, the package includes a bill expanding the definition in the Social Services Law of “victim of domestic violence” to include victims of identity theft, grand larceny and coercion, and ensures they’re eligible for certain victim services (A.5608). It’s important to recognize that domestic abuse can take many forms so we can offer the proper resources to help these women and men, Buttenschon noted.