Guest Op-Ed: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

While recent efforts have increased assistance to victims of domestic violence, they still face many social and legal hurdles.

Domestic violence occurs inside the home and out of public view, making it important that strong laws protect victims.  All too often, victims fear retribution or further attack and fail to report incidents.  In 2012, the time permitted for victims to stay in shelters was increased to 180 (from the old limit of 135 days). This was an important step to help people begin new lives after leaving abusive relationships.

Legal definitions of abusive behavior and other obstacles end up as barriers for victim relief. Last year, I introduced legislation  (A8207) to make it easier for family court judges to issue orders of protection for victims.

My bill would remove the requirement that that behavior take place as a “public” annoyance in front of other people. The vast majority of domestic violence cases occur privately in the home. It makes no sense to require domestic violence abuses to have taken place out in the street.

I want to change the attitudes that perpetuate the cycle of abuse and renew our efforts to support victims when they need it most. We can do this by clearing the path for intervention and making more resources available.

We are dealing with a problem that can become self-perpetuating. Children of abusive relationships often become aggressors as adults. Breaking the cycle of abuse from generation to generation becomes that much harder.

The solution to ending domestic violence requires a tougher approach: let’s clamp down and charge abusers with crimes and help prevent children from abusive home environments from falling into patterns their parents displayed.

As a longtime advocate for children, I support assigning guidance counselors and social workers to every school. We need not only the legislation I have sponsored to do this (A2981), but additional incentives  to train our students to become counselors to help future generations.

Progressive thinking and forward-looking policies like these will help battle and bring to an end the hurt many families suffer. I will continue to fight for better laws to improve the quality of life for every New Yorker because every man, woman and child deserves to be safe at home without fear of parents, spouses and other household members.

I encourage victims, their loved ones and concerned residents to call the NYS Domestic Hotline at 1-800-942-6906, in NYC: 1-800-621-HOPE(4673), or dial 311.

Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, don’t be afraid to reach out.  All it takes is knowing that someone cares.

Assemblymember Felix W. Ortiz represents the 51st A.D.

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