If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence there are ways to get help. National and state organizations aim to provide assistance and support for abused women all over the country. The National Battered Women’s Law Project is headquartered right here in New York at 275 7th Avenue, Suite 1206. A more extensive list of national organizations and hotlines can be found at http://feminist.org/911/crisis.html. The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence is based in Albany, but you can call toll-free at any time to get immediate help and support at (800) 818-0656.
There are also many women’s shelters throughout New York City where you can find safe haven if you believe that you are in physical danger. The city provides emergency housing for victims of domestic violence at thirty-nine confidential locations throughout the city. To gain access to these shelters, call 311 or the twenty-four hour toll-free number of the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 621-HOPE (4673).
The city also provides many valuable services including counseling and free legal help if you decide to take your abuser to court. Visit http://www1.nyc.gov/site/ocdv/programs/family-justice-centers page to access more information about New York City’s domestic violence relief program. Once you have sought help from one of these organizations, you have the right to take further action in a court of law.
Spousal & Child Abuse, Harassment, Restraining Orders, Threats of Violence and More
Orders of Protection
There are many provisions in the law to help victims of domestic violence. A valuable resource that you can utilize is an order of protection, which can be obtained from any court near where you live. A temporary order will last two weeks, after which you will go back to court and have your case heard by a judge. Orders of protection can protect you from any abuser: you do not have to be married to the person against whom you seek an order of protection. You can get an order of protection in either a Family Court or a Criminal Court, or both at the same time. If you choose to get an order of protection, a judge can order the abuser:
- Not to assault, menace, or harass you or commit crimes of reckless endangerment or disorderly conduct against you
- To be removed by the police from your home
- To stay away from you, your home, your job, and other places you specify
- Not to telephone or email you or write you letters
A judge can also protect your children: you may be able to require that any visitation between your children and your abuser be supervised. If you obtain an order of protection in Family Court, the judge can award you legal custody of any children you have with your abuser.
If your abuser violates an order of protection, call the police, who can arrest your abuser. You also have the options of filing a “violation petition” in Family Court, speaking to the District Attorney’s office or another local prosecutor’s office, or going to a Criminal Court. If you prove to a judge that your abuser violated the order of protection, the judge can put him on probation, change the order of protection, or sentence the abuser to jail time.
New Domestic Violence Legislation
Domestic violence is finally getting the attention it deserves from lawmakers.
In 2011, a New York Senate bill allowed victims of domestic violence with orders of protection to obtain unlisted telephone numbers without charge. This will improve victims’ ability to protect themselves from unwanted communication from their abusers.
In 2010, New York criminalized strangulation, a common tactic of domestic abusers which can be terrifying and lethal. Prior to this legislation, strangulation was not considered assault unless it met the high legal standard for sustained physical injury. Choking and strangling often leave no marks, making sustained physical injury difficult to prove. This new law expands the definition of assault, holding abusers accountable and enabling police officers to make needed arrests.
In 2009, New York policymakers made some significant changes to domestic violence laws. Fourteen new laws were enacted in New York. Signed into law on September 16, 2009, the Omnibus Domestic Violence Bill:
- Requires judges to state on the record how domestic violence and/or child abuse were factored into custody and visitation decisions
- Strengthens domestic violence training for children’s attorneys
- Requires law enforcement to forward domestic incident reports to probation and parole officers
- Provides for certain violation-level harassment convictions to remain unsealed and accessible to law enforcement, which provides a more complete history of abuse
- Protects victims of sexual assault that was committed by a family or household member by designating certain low-level sexual assault crimes as family offenses, requiring that mandatory arrest provisions apply and allowing victims to petition Family Court for orders of protection
Another important new law that became effective on July 7, 2009, deals with employment discrimination. The law states that if you are a victim of domestic violence, you are protected from being fired or from being refused employment based on your status as a victim of domestic violence. It also prevents discrimination in how much victims of domestic violence are paid, or in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment.
Perhaps the most important new law went into effect on December 15, 2009. It prohibits any state or local government from requiring you to contact your abuser in order to meet eligibility for services or benefits. This means that the court cannot require you to see or speak to your abuser in order to gain access to any services or benefits that the court has given you. The court is required to provide someone to meet with your abuser, and then report back to you. This person is required to protect your privacy, confidentiality, and current location.
Two other important new laws protect the identities of people who change their names, and extend the law regarding mandatory arrests. The law regarding name changes became effective July 7, 2009. The law states that judges have the right to seal court documents and other records in name change cases. Also, in most situations when you change your name, you have to publish the new name in a local paper, but judges now have the power to waive this, so your new name can be kept secret. You can also have the documents sealed and waive the publication of your new name in a newspaper at the begining of court proceedings, rather than after the final decision has been reached. The mandatory arrest law is simply an extension of the previous law that requires a mandatory arrest for family offenses. The law is extended for two more years until September 1, 2011.
For a list of other laws passed regarding domestic violence, visit http://www.opdv.ny.gov or http://www.rehabcenter.net/domestic-violence-and-substance-abuse/
Types of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence not only includes physical abuse, but also mental, verbal, and emotional abuse. In many situations, non-physical abuse leads to physical abuse – sometimes even to murder.
Although women are the primary victims of domestic abuse, especially violent abuse, men can be victims as well in both same-sex and opposite sex relationships. One of the most important steps in breaking free of an abusive or violent relationship is to recognize the situation as abusive. The various forms of domestic violence and abuse include:
- Your partner using threats to make you do things – for example, threatening to leave you, threatening to commit suicide, or threatening to hurt you
- Economic abuse, such as preventing you from earning money or making you beg for an allowance;
- Sexual abuse, which means treating you as a sex object or making you perform sex acts against your will
- Emotional abuse, which includes causing you to have low self-esteem, humiliating you, and making you feel guilty or crazy
- Isolating you from friends and controlling who you see
- Intimidating you by implying physical violence through words or actions including destroying your property
- Minimizing the abuse, denying the abuse, and blaming you for causing the abuse
Because of the psychological aspect of domestic abuse, many abused people look to themselves to find things to change, while in reality it is their partner who has the problem. This is why it is extremely important, if you are close to someone who may be in an abusive relationship, to provide help and support. Once a person who is being abused has recognized the situation for what it is, he or she can begin to seek help. Please feel free to call our office and set up a consultation about this.