Assemblymember Wallace Co-Sponsors, Passes Package of Bills to Help Domestic Violence Victims

Today, Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) announced that a series of bills that she co-sponsored to protect, empower, and provide resources to domestic violence victims has passed the New York State Assembly.

“For women who are victims of domestic violence, fleeing their abuser is often not as simple as it sounds,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “Victims are often financially dependent on their abusers, which makes remaining in an abusive relationship feel like the victim’s only option. Studies show that ninety-nine percent of domestic violence cases involve some form of financial abuse, and that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.[1] Passing meaningful legislation that will provide victims the aid and resources they need to leave situations of domestic violence was a priority of mine this session, and I’m proud that we were able to get it done.”

To ensure survivors can achieve financial security and independence, Wallace co-sponsored and passed legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence (A.5618). In addition, she co-sponsored and passed measures that allow victims to leave their lease if a co-tenant is an abuser regardless of whether the rent is past due (A.4267), and allow victims who have a permanent order of protection to be released from telephone, cable or broadband contracts without incurring cancellation fees (A.5318). To further help victims of domestic violence distance themselves from their abusers, Wallace co-sponsored and passed a bill requiring health insurers provide victims with the option of designating alternative contact information for claim information and billing purposes (A.2832).

When victims of domestic violence are hospitalized, it’s critical that health care professionals can identify these victims and manage their care effectively. Wallace co-sponsored and passed a measure requiring hospitals establish training programs on domestic violence for all current and new hospital employees (A.2850-A). The bill would also ensure victims can access community domestic violence service providers in order to help coordinate their care.

Wallace co-sponsored legislation would also make important changes to New York’s criminal justice system to help victims seek justice. This includes measures to recognize identity theft, grand larceny and coercion as forms of domestic violence (A.5608), and allow victims of domestic violence receive damages for economic and non-economic losses from all defendants found liable in civil court (A.5614).

In addition to the package of legislation passed this week, Wallace noted that she recently introduced legislation (A.7529) that would allow courts to order temporary spousal support in conjunction with temporary and final orders of protection. Often in court proceedings, particularly those involving domestic violence, petitioners lack means of their own to cover immediate expenses, including expenses related to relocation.

“Domestic violence survivors should not be forced to remain where they are because they can’t afford to flee,” said Wallace. “My bill reiterates New York’s stance that financial abuse is a serious form of domestic violence, and giving the courts the tools they need to provide petitioners with financial stability during proceedings is critical.”

Wallace also noted that there are several organizations in Western New York that serve domestic violence victims and connect them and their families to services they need to escape their abusers. In particular, the Family Justice Center has built a reputation for the safety and services they offer to domestic violence victims. If you are the victim of domestic abuse and need help, please call the Family Justice Center at (716) 558-7233.