City to Invest $7M to Better Apprehend Domestic Violence Abusers and Ensure Support for Survivors

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BP Adams: Mayor’s move “ensures care of children who are often invisible victims”.

What should be one of the warmest and most peaceful days of the year, Mother’s Day, will be the extreme opposite for individuals trapped in abusive situations. Or locked in memories of them.

While crime has lowered in New York City, domestic violence has drastically risen, according to the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force. One in every five homicides—and two in every five reported assaults—citywide is connected to domestic abuse.

It could be that more people are reporting it. It could be that the statistics are reflecting a horrible reality, but all across the country, small towns and big are reporting an increase. Here in New York, Mayor de Blasio and his wife First Lady Chirlane McCray and city officials, including the NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and Borough President Eric Adams, are taking stands.

This week, the de Blasio Administration announced an investment of nearly $7 million to better apprehend abusers as well as ensure support for survivors. It’s a start.

The number of intimate partner homicides rose from 26 in 2015 to 37 in 2016, and the number of domestic violence incident reports rose from 74,684 in 2015 to 91,617 in 2016.

“Domestic violence is disturbingly common, and affects every neighborhood in NYC. It’s only by confronting this crime that we will end the vicious cycle that perpetuates it,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This report sends a loud and clear message: ‘We will not tolerate domestic violence, survivors have the city’s full support and abusers must be held accountable. We will do everything we can to ensure that New York City is safer for everyone, everywhere, at all times.’”

“There is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to domestic violence but there are actions we can take to provide pathways to safety for survivors and hold abusers accountable,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, co-chair of the Domestic Violence Task Force and the Commission on Gender Equity. “The new investments we are announcing will help us leverage bold innovations that support families, help them heal and address root causes of abusive behavior.”

“We believe that these investments will enable us to further reduce crime and violence, particularly with the victims of domestic violence,” said NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.

In 2007, 4.8% of all major crimes in the city were related to domestic violence, broadly defined to include offenses involving members of the same family or household as well as those related to intimate partners. By 2016, that percentage had reached 11.6%.

The Task Force conducted an in-depth review of current city programs and investments to enhance the delivery of social services to victims, evidence-gathering and other law enforcement tactics. The new approach focuses on intervening as early as possible, enhancing pathways to safety for survivors and ensuring swift, effective and lasting enforcement to hold abusers accountable. Recommendations include:

Expanding the Child Trauma Response Teams: expanding the program to an additional location will provide immediate intervention for more victims of child trauma who have witnessed domestic violence in their homes, which has been shown to reduce the odds of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by 65% for children who have witnessed violence.

Investing in enhanced evidence-gathering:  purchasing state-of-the-art technology, including alternative light source cameras, which can reveal evidence of strangulation often missed by traditional cameras, and mobile evidence-gathering technology, which can be a critical source of information in stalking cases. Forensic evidence can help validate a victim’s experience by substantiating abuse in a way that can be used to support criminal prosecution, inform victims of domestic violence of available options and increase the strength of a criminal case to hold the abuser accountable.

Expanding the Early Victim Engagement Program: expanding this early engagement program to an additional two locations will provide critical information to more victims at the time of an offender’s arraignment enhancing safety, access to resources and prosecutions. An evaluation of the EVE program in Brooklyn found that it increased the conviction rate in cases of intimate partner violence prosecuted by 9%, from 23.6% vs. 32.6%.

Providing Immigrant Legal Services: linking domestic violence services with immigration legal services to ensure that survivors can seek help without fear or immigration consequences.

Additionally, the strategy devotes resources to the continued work of the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force to improve data collection, integrate domestic violence reduction resources into the ThriveNYC network and develop additional strategies to prevent domestic violence.

Convened in November 2016, the Task Force was charged with developing a coordinated response to this persistent problem that included both criminal justice and social services intervention. Co-chaired by First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, the work of the Task Force is directed by the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Cecile Noel and Executive Director of the Task Force Bea Hanson. The Task Force is comprised of experts from inside and outside government as well as survivors.

Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer said, “In a city in which violent crime has fallen by 75 percent in 20 years, domestic violence remains a challenge, accounting for 40 percent of citywide assaults and 20 percent of homicides”.

“Far too many individuals are the victims of domestic violence,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.  “A comprehensive strategy to hold domestic abusers culpable and provide increased safety to survivors and individuals in danger is absolutely vital to ensure all our residents are protected. I applaud the mayor for taking this important step to prioritize the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers.”

“We need to ensure survivors of domestic violence are brought out of the shadows and thriving,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray and Commissioner O’Neill for taking a comprehensive approach to domestic violence including ensuring the care of children who are often invisible victims, along with making sure abusers are brought to justice. I am proud to have worked with Assembly members Amy Paulin and Jamie Williams, and survivors to introduce legislation in the state legislature to empower and strengthen the voices of those who have overcome abuse. Nobody should be allowed to silence these women and men.”

Domestic violence, both in New York City and nationally, is a challenging and complex societal problem that is yet to be solved. The crimes often occur behind closed doors, and victims face many barriers in coming forward to friends, family or to law enforcement, which complicates service provision as well as law enforcement’s investigation and evidence-gathering. Domestic violence can happen in the context of familial or intimate partner relationships, threatening not only physical safety but housing, financial security and other family members.

In addition to being a criminal justice issue, domestic violence has far-reaching effects on families, communities and our city. 20 to 40% of chronically violent adolescents have been exposed to extreme parental conflict at home. Women who experience physical violence from an intimate partner report an average of 7.2 days of lost work-related productivity a year.

New York City currently has in place multiple programs and services to support survivors, including shelter programs, training programs for staff, educational and preventive programs for youth and extensive case management services at the Family Justice Centers through a network of on-site providers in each borough. These services were recently expanded to include on-site housing legal assistance. In addition, the Paid Safe Leave legislation will provide avenues to ensure protections for domestic violence survivors in the workplace.