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Assembly passes bills to remove barriers for victims of domestic violence

Avery Schneider

New legislation is advancing through Albany to help victims of domestic violence escape unhealthy relationships.

“When a victim does finally marshal the courage to come forward, we owe it to those victims to have laws and procedures in place to protect them,” state Assembly Member Monica Wallace said on Friday.

Wallace announced the passage of a legislative package in the state Assembly aimed to assist victims of domestic violence.

Among the packages five bills, one would ensure victims can leave phone, cable, and internet family plans without penalty.

“This would allow the victim to change her telephone number without penalty,” said Wallace. “So when a woman does leave, she can do so without worrying that her abuser will be able to shut off her cell phone without her knowing it, or be able track her whereabouts, or maybe even be able to access her text messages and cell phone messages.”

Another of the bills would protect victims from discrimination by employers, and requires them to provide reasonable accommodations for attending legal proceedings and counseling sessions.

Wallace said they’re important measures because victims are often subject to financial abuse.

“In fact, 98 percent – so almost 100 percent – of the cases of domestic violence involve some form of financial abuse. And the financial consequences also act as a barrier to women coming forward.”

The package also includes measures to increase the statute of limitations in domestic violence civil suits from one to two years, and requires hospitals to establish training programs for staff to recognize domestic violence and connect victims with services. It also would work to simplify language in court documents so help victims understand their legal rights and access to services during criminal and family court proceedings.

“We want to remove whatever barriers exist, so that when a woman does leave, she can feel safe and protected and know that she can leave here abuser and continue on with her life.”

Passage of the bills by the state Assembly comes in the wake of abuse allegations against former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. A New Yorker magazine article detailed the accounts of four women who say Schneiderman physically abused them during romantic relationships or encounters.

While the legislation Wallace announced was in the works prior to the revelations against Schneiderman, she says it highlights their importance. She’s hopeful the bills will be passed by the state Senate.

Wallace also announced, on Friday, that she has introduced new legislation to amend state education law and provide dating violence education to students in junior high and high schools.

Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter @SAvery131.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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