Standing Ovation

Standing Ovation

This week marks one of those very rare occasions in which we tip our caps, raise our glasses, and stand up to applaud the work completed by our elected officials up in Albany.
(No, that isn’t an extremely long typo.)
After wending its way through the State Senate and Assembly, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act finally found the desk of one Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who last week signed it into law.
According to State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the eight pieces of legislation to aid survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are as follows:
S.4355, which was co-sponsored by Addabbo, expands the offense of second-degree coercion to punish those who force others to produce or disseminate intimate images of themselves, and makes these offenders subject to inclusion on New York’s Sex Offender Registry. In addition to paying potential fines, these criminals would serve up to one year in prison, or be sentenced to up to three years of probation.
S.4657 establishes the right of tenants to call police or emergency assistance at any time, and multiple times, without fear of losing their housing. Right now, when numerous calls are made from the same residence for emergency services to respond to domestic violence or other criminal complaints, landlords may choose to evict victims under local “nuisance ordinances” – further endangering those who are already in peril.
S.2416 extends the statute of limitations from one to two years to give victims more time to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers for injuries they sustained as a result of domestic violence.
S.2224 provides that professional advocates for domestic violence survivors are not required to disclose their private communications with their clients unless the victim authorizes the action, or it is otherwise required by existing law – as in cases where the communications include the victim’s intent to commit a crime or other harmful act. This confidentiality privilege already exists for rape crisis counselors.
S.2356 allows domestic violence victims to cancel telephone and certain other telecommunications service contracts without penalty when there is a permanent order of protection in place. This will help survivors escape from violent circumstances without suffering an ongoing financial burden or continued contact with their abusers.
S.257 enables victims of sexual violence to file petitions in State Supreme Court to have their voter registration records, which contain addresses and other personal information, sealed from public access.
S.615 protects victims of domestic violence from possible contact with their abusers at election time by providing them with special absentee ballots, upon request, to cast by mail or in person at their county board of elections office.
S.1868 seeks to improve the effectiveness of domestic violence orders of protection by enabling victims to seek and fully recover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, from those found liable of failing to obey or enforce these vital legal safeguards for survivors.
As Addabbo eloquently noted, the above measures send “a strong message that New York State stands with survivors during every step and every stage of their difficult journeys.”
Bravo, Albany.


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