Each minute, nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in this country; an act of sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds. These aren’t just statistics on a page — these heinous acts are happening right here in Onondaga County. There were 3,537 reported cases of domestic violence in 2016 alone, with countless others going unreported.
For far too long, victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse have suffered in silence, carrying with them the physical and mental wounds that adversely affect their lives each and every day. Every victim is entitled to justice, which is why I have been working diligently in the Assembly to pass legislation to empower survivors and help them reclaim their lives.
One such bill I helped pass simplifies court documents so that victims of domestic violence better understand their rights and the services available to them (A.5921). Another bill allows victims to receive damages for economic and non-economic losses from all defendants found liable in civil court (A.1390).
The trauma victims have endured should never define them. I’m fighting to ensure survivors can cut ties and rebuild their lives. That’s why I passed a bill to release them from a shared or family plan and cancel phone contracts when a domestic violence report is filed (A.1056, A.946). To better protect their privacy, I also passed a bill to require health insurers to allow victims of domestic violence to have claim information and benefits sent to an alternative contact.
All too often, predators go after the most vulnerable — children. It’s critical that we keep our kids safe from sexual abuse and violence that can leave them with lifelong scars. From the moment they’re born, we do everything in our power to ensure they can live a rich and fulfilling life. No child should be robbed of their innocence. Our kids deserve protection; I’m fighting to make sure they get it.
A bill I co-sponsored extends the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse so more victims can seek justice. Moreover, I also co-sponsored a law to put an end to child marriage in our state. Nearly 3,900 child marriages took place in New York between 2000 and 2010, 40 of which involved 14- and 15-year-olds. The minimum age of marriage is now 18 (17 with judicial consent). Children should be children, not husbands and wives. Girls who are married before the age of 18 are three times more likely to be victims of abuse than women who marry after 21.
Those who experience violence and abuse are not just victims — they are survivors. Let’s provide them with the love and support they need to begin and continue the healing process.
It’s important to know the resources available if you or someone you know is a victim of any form of abuse. You can learn more by calling Vera House at (315) 468-3260 or visiting its website at verahouse.org. You can also call New York’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-942-6906. Assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Further information can be found online on the New York State Office of Victim Services’ website (ovs.ny.gov) and the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence’s website (opdv.ny.gov). As always, I’m here to help. If you have any questions or concerns, contact me at StirpeA@nyassembly.gov or by calling (315) 452-1115.