October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence affects millions of women and men and it does not discriminate. Prior to the pandemic up to one in three women and one in four men experienced some form of domestic violence by their partners. As we sheltered at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and infection rates declined, a new pandemic emerged from the shadows. Surveys around the world have shown domestic abuse spiking since January of 2020—jumping markedly year over year compared to the same period in 2019. This is appalling.
As a father and grandfather, my heart breaks imagining the struggles and hardships victims of domestic violence deal with every day. Throughout my 14 years as a city court judge, 10 of which I was assigned to oversee the domestic violence court, I presided over thousands of domestic violence cases.
Domestic violence can take many forms; it is not limited to physical contact or one's spouse. Fear, intimidation, financial dependency, job security, coercion and manipulation are all different, but have one thing in common. That is the abuse of power and control over a weaker victim.
This has been exacerbated during the pandemic, as abusers and their victims were often stuck together. Isolation has always been one of the most powerful weapons in the abuser’s arsenal. At first the attention can seem endearing, even caring, with abusers burrowing themselves deeper into the victim’s daily life. Only later does a much darker side come to light.
Throughout my tenure in the Assembly, I have sponsored impactful legislation that supports victims of domestic violence. I supported Helens’s Law, which requires the registration of violent felony offenders (A.3471), legislation that provides a harsher penalty for intentionally committing an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child who is 15 years of age or younger (A.5751) and protects a parent who is a victim of domestic violence from having children removed from their custody if they reported the abuse (A.4754). Additionally, my Assembly colleagues and I held a series of task force forums across New York state to address domestic violence and discuss meaningful legislation to assist victims.
On Saturday, October 16, I encourage everyone to wear purple to show your solidarity with victims of domestic violence and to generate attention toward domestic violence. It is important for those experiencing domestic violence to know they are not alone.
There are a number of resources available to help you or a loved one you know is struggling. Please call the New York State Coalition against Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 942-6906 or visit www.nyscadv.org. You may also visit the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence website at https://opdv.ny.gov/survivors-victims for 24/7 confidential support and additional information.