North Country Assemblyman Butler releases report suggesting bills to aid domestic violence victims
Monday, February 5, 2018 - 2:44 pm

North Country Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R-Newport) and his Assembly Republican colleagues recently issued a report that he says offers “legislative solutions to help prevent domestic violence and support victims and survivors,” Butler’s office said.

The report, “A Safe Haven: Helping Abuse Victims and Enhancing Protections,” was developed “based off of testimony given by survivors of domestic violence, social workers and service providers and law enforcement at five state-wide forums,” Butler’s office said.

The report makes multiple recommendations on penal code, court proceedings, law enforcement, emergency shelter and care for victims. Included in the proposed measures are the following:

• Domestic Violence in the Presence of Child Bill – the proposed bill would increase penalties for those who commit acts of domestic violence in front of a child, which “many studies show have adverse impacts on development and behavior as they grow into adulthood,” Butler’s office said.

• Improving the Warning Process Relating to Orders of Protection – the recommendation allows for more thorough standardized warnings and explanations of what a court issued order of protection means. This information would be explained to both the victim and defendant.

• Allowing Social Workers and Victim Advocates to Testify on the Behalf of Children – this would allow, like in other types of court proceedings, that hearsay evidence gathered by social workers and victim advocates in the process of working with a child would be admissible in domestic violence court cases. This would “protect a child from reliving the trauma and stress that can be caused by having to testify in these cases,” Butler’s office said.

• Temporary Spousal and Child Support – one of the biggest hurdles keeping an abused partner from leaving a spouse is financial means. New York policy could change to allow for financial spousal and child support during the duration of an order of protection.

• Consistency in the Court – New York should adopt a policy that ensures a case is handled in the same court with the same judge. There are instances when a judge unfamiliar with a case has given leniency to a dangerous abuser, which has led to detrimental outcomes, Butler’s office said.

• Improve Access to Temporary Shelter – it should be a goal of the state to ensure that victims of abuse have a safe place to find shelter and refuge from their abuser. Efforts should be made to stabilize funding for these programs and review policies to make them more accessible to those in need.

• Domestic Violence Curriculum in Schools – children are often the witnesses to these crimes, and they “should be equipped with knowledge that can help their abused parent and themselves escape the violence in their home,” Butler’s office said. Children are also at risk of picking up learned behaviors, which intervention education can help teach healthy ways to manage strong emotion and other stressors, according to the assemblyman’s office.

“Domestic violence is one of the most troubling societal problems we face today. Its reach into our communities and the toll it takes on victims and the children who witness this violence is great,” Butler said in a prepared statement. “I am thankful for all the brave voices who testified on this matter, their invaluable insights improve our understanding as to where New York can help step in with better policies to support those who need help.”

The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in their life. Intimate partner violence impacts the lives of 12 million people annually. The State Office of Court Administration (OCA) noted that the amount of filed orders of protection reached a five-year high in 2016. There is also a profound impact on children witnessing abuse. Several studies available at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) noted actual anatomical and physiological changes to the brain can occur due to witnessing domestic violence, which can lead to these children growing into adults who use violence against their loved ones. Other studies also indicate that childhood traumas can have significant adverse effects on the life-long health of an individual, which can include increased risk for depression, heart attack and developing type 2 diabetes, according to Butler’s office

Butler is hopeful that “meaningful conversations will occur in Albany this year to pass effective policy to improve the prevention of domestic violence and to provide better care and services to its victims and survivors,” his office said in a news release.