Like countless other Americans, throughout the month of October I wear purple in its various hues as a public declaration of my support for efforts to stamp out the scourge of domestic violence from our society. It is a genuine, heartfelt gesture that sends a message of hope to the women and men who have suffered domestic abuse. Some of them have lived to tell their stories. Countless others have not. But with domestic violence reaching epidemic proportions today, it is time that we do much more than wear purple and give speeches. Now it’s time to be diligent about finding ways to stop the abuse, protect the abused and punish the abusers.
That’s why every legislative session I take action to reduce this moral blight by introducing legislation surrounding this issue. I am proud of the work I have done having gotten a number of bills passed into law, primarily the legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that provides an avenue for victims of domestic violence to have their telephone numbers unlisted or use pseudonymous identification without charge from service providers. In addition to these legislative efforts, this year I partnered with the National Network to End Domestic Violence and have taken part in a series of events during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. However, despite our best efforts, we need to do much more.
Here’s why. In 2014, there were 63 family related homicides in New York City, and the Police Department responded to more than 282,000 domestic incidents. In addition, there were more than 54,600 client visits to the New York City Family Justice Centers across our five boroughs. This number represents a 22.3 percent increase from 2013. To exacerbate this dire situation, our communities face almost 11,000 requests for emergency services from victims that go unmet and unresolved because of a lack of resources, often because of cuts in public funding.
Therefore, in demonstration of my strong commitment to end this plague that disproportionately affects communities of color and immigrants, I have introduced 10 domestic violence bills in the past legislative session. Among them is a bill that allows victims of domestic violence who have sought and received a permanent order of protection and are under telephone service contract to break such agreement without penalty. Other bills address the entitlement to unpaid leave of absence for victims of domestic violence and another that authorizes a victim of domestic violence to apply to remove the violent felony offender from the deed of co-owned real property.
I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and the work of his Office to Combat Domestic Violence for rendering yeoman service to survivors of domestic abuse. Under the leadership of Commissioner Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, the office has responded to 87,374 domestic violence hotline calls and fielded 11,108 requests for domestic violence shelters. Also, the office has been doing remarkably well reaching out to immigrant communities who, because of impediments such as language barriers, immigration status or both, oftentimes feel that they have nowhere to go to seek refuge. Again, all of these steps are moving us in the right direction, as no woman or man who suffers at the hands of an abuser should ever feel alone, much less be alone.
We will continue to proudly wear purple ribbons on our chests as a symbol that has an impact on the issue in its own way, but let’s always keep the victims of domestic violence in our hearts and actions so words such as “broken,” “threatened,” “put down,” “scared,” “intimidated,” “manipulated,” “humiliated” and “battered” will no longer be a part of their existence as they move from victim, to survivor and ultimately to crusader.