The statistics are startling. According to Vera House Inc., nearly 700 women and children in Onondaga County obtain shelter due to domestic violence annually. Police receive over 1,500 calls to domestic disputes every month. Twenty-five percent of homicide victims are women killed by a current or former male partner.
These facts highlight the importance of October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is a damaging problem that destroys lives, families, and communities. Its effects can be physically, emotionally, and mentally destructive.
Recently, 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). Another measure allows a stalking victim to receive a special order of conditions to maintain legal protections when a defendant is found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect (Ch. 525 of 2003). I also voted for a law that increases the maximum duration of orders of protection for victims of domestic violence and clarifies that violation of a prior valid order of protection would enable the court to issue an order for a maximum of five years (Ch. 579 of 2003).
Since taking office in 1999, I have worked to improve our states domestic violence laws, including passing legislation dealing with new stalking crimes, unemployment benefits for domestic violence victims, toll free telephone access for crime victims wishing to contact the state parole board regarding an inmates release, and compensation for counseling the spouses and children of crime victims who were physically injured.
These laws will help but it is important that everyone in our community be involved in the battle against domestic violence. This month, several events will be held in the area to help people learn about domestic violence and stem the tide against this debilitating problem.
The 14th Annual Report to the Community on Domestic Violence will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 22 from noon to 1 p.m. Local domestic violence data, a survivors panel, an update on community services, community accomplishments and goals for the future will be presented. The event is scheduled to take place in the Curtin Auditorium at the Onondaga County Central Library, 447 South Salina Street, Syracuse.
Domestic Violence Service is a community gathering recognizing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and will be held Sunday, Oct. 26 from 4-5 p.m. at the Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 515 Oakwood Avenue, Syracuse.
The YWCAs Week Without Violence will be from Sunday, Oct. 19 through Saturday, Oct. 25. The Syracuse and Onondaga County YWCA will hold various anti-violence events at different locations throughout the community. Call 424-0040 for more information.
Domestic violence is a serious problem both on a national and local level. Make your presence felt at the events being held in Syracuse this month to show that domestic violence must not be tolerated.