October represents National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I recently spoke at the “Walk with Me” rally, an event sponsored by the New York State Assembly and the Maxwell Women’s Caucus at Syracuse University. This collaborative effort aims to help prevent domestic violence by educating and mobilizing our community.
National, state and local statistics on domestic abuse tell the same, horrifying story. Domestic violence destroys the health and well-being of families and children, causing physical injury, emotional harm and death. A 1999 study shows that children who are exposed to domestic violence are likely to have increased aggressive behavior, experience depression and/or anxiety, and function poorly, socially and academically. We need to end this devastating cycle and rebuild lives that are wasted because of constant battering.
According to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, battering is the major cause of injury to women aged 14-45, causing more injuries than auto accidents, muggings and rape combined; and up to 70 percent of men who abuse their partner also abuse children.
Statistics for Onondaga County are just as disturbing. Vera House Inc., a rape crisis center in Syracuse, reports nearly 700 women and children use its shelter; police receive over 1,500 calls monthly for domestic disputes; and 25 percent of homicide victims are women killed by a current or former male partner.
Since taking office in 1999, I have worked to improve our domestic violence laws including legislation dealing with new stalking crimes, unemployment benefits for domestic violence victims, and counseling for spouses and children of crime victims who were physically injured.
In 2003, I helped pass several laws addressing domestic violence, including strengthening the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000 to eliminate circumstances in which marriage can inappropriately be used as a legal defense for sexual assault (Ch. 264 of 2003); and increasing the duration for orders of protection (Ch. 579 of 2003).
Last year, I supported a law (Ch. 219 of 2004) that requires hospitals and birth centers to show maternity patients and fathers a video on the dangers of shaking infants and small children which became law. I also supported a law to allow domestic violence victims in emergency or temporary lodging to ask for assistance in family court (Ch. 391 of 2004).
There are now several bills before the Legislature to protect victims of domestic violence which I support, including one to keep voter registration records of victims confidential in certain cases to safeguard privacy (A.1221).
Protecting families from violence is also a priority and I support two bills that accomplish this objective by:
- Strengthening laws requiring those who violate an order of protection to surrender their firearms and firearm licenses (A.419); and
- Stopping the clock on the length of orders of protection when an abuser is in jail (A.5947).
Domestic violence is a serious issue nationally and for us at home and that is why events such as the “walk with me” event are so important to help increase awareness. Any way we can join our neighbors and become more conscious of its devastating effects brings us closer to solutions that will heal victims, their families and the community.
For more information about preventing domestic violence, visit www.nyscadv.org/about.htm, or call the NYSCADV office at (518) 482-5465. The NYSCADV also has a Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-942-6906 (1-800-942-6908 for Spanish).