Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/domestic-violence 2017-12-17T04:23:07+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Examines Effectiveness of Domestic Violence Courts 2017-09-18T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7204:city-council-examines-effectiveness-of-domestic-violence-courts Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/lancman_rally_council.jpg" alt="lancman rally council" width="600" height="432" /></p> <p>Council Member Lancman (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Courts and Legal Services Committee held an oversight hearing on Monday dedicated to New York’s Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, a program designed to increase accountability and responsiveness to domestic violence victims in the legal system by combining the different courts one might interact with in a domestic violence dispute into a single court, with a single judge handling a couple’s or family’s multiple cases, including criminal, custody, and visitation cases.</p> <p>Integrated domestic violence courts, or IDVs, aim to lessen the burden of the legal system on victims of domestic violence, as well as their families. IDVs were introduced into the New York criminal justice system in 2003; the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, a nonprofit service provider, <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:8X2iT8QsYZgJ:www.nycja.org/lwdcms/doc-view.php?module=reports&amp;module_id=656&amp;doc_name=doc+&amp;cd=11&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">found</a> that, between 2007 and 2009, domestic violence convictions in IDV courts were considerably higher than in criminal courts. Domestic violence cases in regular criminal courts usually do not end in convictions, leaving victims without at least some semblance of justice.</p> <p>These courts are a piece of the larger picture of efforts to fight, prevent, and punish domestic violence in New York City.</p> <p>As noted at the hearing, even as crime has fallen substantially in New York City, reports of incidences of domestic violence have risen, “both in total number and as a percentage of total crime,” according to a briefing paper for the hearing prepared by the City Council. The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence reports that the NYPD responded to 91,600 domestic violence calls involving intimate partners in 2016, a 22.6% increase over 2015.</p> <p>Some attribute increases in reports to encouragement of such reporting and steps taken to educate people, especially women, about their opportunities to report abuse and resources available to victims. While it is still a challenge, the stigma around reporting domestic violence has been reduced.</p> <p>City Council Member Rory Lancman, the chair of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, led the hearing and was at several points the only elected official in the room.</p> <p>“Every act of domestic violence ripples out to affect our city -- it leads to homelessness, health problems and hospital visits, police interventions, lost jobs or missed time, not to mention its effect on children’s wellbeing and education,” Lancman said. “How our City manages the legal proceedings associated with domestic violence cases plays a major role in determining the services victims receive and how we are able to hold perpetrators accountable.</p> <p>Lancman also specifically noted the importance of the IDV courts in his remarks.</p> <p>“For the better part of two decades now, New York’s Court system has been on the forefront of the movement to provide specialty courts to handle domestic violence cases. It is our responsibility to ensure the operations of DV and IDV courts, and the services they provide, are excellent no matter what the charge or court families end up in.”</p> <p>In November 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a task force on domestic violence, co-chaired by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Police Commissioner James O’Neill, to develop recommendations for how to comprehensively deal with domestic violence in the city. The Task Force submitted its initial <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVTF-2017-Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> to the mayor in May, with a host of recommendations encompassed within four main areas: expand child and youth prevention and intervention; enhance criminal justice responses; strengthen New York City communities; and improve citywide coordination to maximize results.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration had two officials testify Monday, discussing IDVs in the larger context of the city’s efforts to fight domestic violence.</p> <p>At the hearing, the ways in which IDVs benefit the system were discussed several times, but much of the focus was on reforms that could be made to the IDV system. For instance, despite increased attention upon individual cases across multiple legal disciplines, a 2010 Harvard <a href="https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4772900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a>, cited by the committee, found that “protective orders took longer to process and issue in IDV courts, and were not significantly more likely to be granted compared to those filed in Criminal Domestic Violence Courts.”</p> <p>Further, IDVs suffer from a chronic lack of resources, according to experts who testified to the committee. Lindsey Wallace, of Sanctuary for Families, testified regarding the poor resource allocation negatively impacting IDVs, despite casting Brooklyn’s IDV system as a “national model.”</p> <p>“Many of the critical services IDVC judges wish to order for these families are not available, or there are lengthy waiting lists,” Wallace said. “Of the most critical importance is the need for institutional providers of supervised visitation.”</p> <p>Supervised visitation refers to allowing parents involved in a domestic violence dispute the opportunity to see their children, who may have been taken away from them, under close supervision. This is one of the most sensitive areas in domestic violence policy, as parents will often be desperate to see their children, but a lack of services to facilitate these visits can cause a backlog in supervisors.</p> <p>Supervised visitation emerged as possibly the most prominent of the resource problems according to those testifying before the Council committee on Monday. Esther Morgenstern, a Kings County Supreme Court judge who presides over Brooklyn’s IDV court, gave a similar diagnosis to Wallace’s.</p> <p>“When it comes to supervised visitation, there’s a real lacking of services,” Morgenstern said. “And when you’re at the end of the case, two years have gone by, the criminal cases have resolved, and matrimonial has resolved, the children, we still want them to reconnect with the noncustodial parent. And very often I sign 722c orders, which allows the court to use city and state funds to have those visitations occur. But there’s a real need for additional funds for supervised visitation.” She went on to request a grant for supervised visitation services from the City Council.</p> <p>Other areas of potential IDV reform were also touched upon. Kathleen Daniel, a domestic violence survivor and advocate, noted that there is a “lack of integration for DV families outside of criminal court,” referring to the degree to which relevant information is shared between entities like courts and legal services. IDV is, according to Daniel, the only integrated step in the court process for domestic violence.</p> <p>Daniel further recommended that renewing restraining orders should be made easier and pressed for a “mandated mediation program” of one to two years “to ensure co-parenting and the best interests of children are the priority.”</p> <p>Representing the de Blasio administration Monday were Elizabeth Dank of the Office to Combat Domestic Violence and Nicole Torres of the Office of Criminal Justice. Dank and Torres discussed IDV courts in the context of the administration’s larger push for domestic violence policy reform, such as the large number of families involved in disputes who utilize family justice centers during the legal process, a count of 62,000 in 2016.</p> <p>Lancman, the chair of the committee, asked Dank about the apparent problems with enough resources for supervised visitations. Dank discussed a program through Safe Horizons, a victim assistance organization, in partnership with the federal government, to provide a grant for supervised visitation in Queens, as well as other programs that she did not specify.</p> <p>“We agree that this is something that needs additional resources, and so we are looking at that matter through the task force currently,” said Dank. The de Blasio administration is expected to make a series of announcements in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as it did last year.</p> <p>Lancman also asked Dank about why some more serious offenses, in most cases felonies, do not end up in front of IDVs where these cases could receive more individualized attention. In other words, the more serious the case, the more likely it is to have to go through even more judicial bureaucracy, as opposed to non-felony offenses, which more often land in an IDV.</p> <p>Dank shifted back to resources, stating that the administration’s aim is, regardless of the seriousness of the offense, to ensure that resources are available to families going through the process.</p> <p>While many areas in need of reform or improvement were noted, the positives of IDVs were not lost on those testifying Monday. A large benefit of IDVs is the streamlining of the legal process for domestic violence victims and their families.</p> <p>“If you go into family court just to file for custody or for an order of protection,” said Judge Morgenstern, “your return date on proof of service could be three months. In my [court], when there’s an arrest, and a match is made, within two weeks you’ll be before the IDV court. So, IDV, the fact that we’re looking at all of the cases brings the issues before the court much quicker.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/lancman_rally_council.jpg" alt="lancman rally council" width="600" height="432" /></p> <p>Council Member Lancman (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Courts and Legal Services Committee held an oversight hearing on Monday dedicated to New York’s Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, a program designed to increase accountability and responsiveness to domestic violence victims in the legal system by combining the different courts one might interact with in a domestic violence dispute into a single court, with a single judge handling a couple’s or family’s multiple cases, including criminal, custody, and visitation cases.</p> <p>Integrated domestic violence courts, or IDVs, aim to lessen the burden of the legal system on victims of domestic violence, as well as their families. IDVs were introduced into the New York criminal justice system in 2003; the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, a nonprofit service provider, <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:8X2iT8QsYZgJ:www.nycja.org/lwdcms/doc-view.php?module=reports&amp;module_id=656&amp;doc_name=doc+&amp;cd=11&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">found</a> that, between 2007 and 2009, domestic violence convictions in IDV courts were considerably higher than in criminal courts. Domestic violence cases in regular criminal courts usually do not end in convictions, leaving victims without at least some semblance of justice.</p> <p>These courts are a piece of the larger picture of efforts to fight, prevent, and punish domestic violence in New York City.</p> <p>As noted at the hearing, even as crime has fallen substantially in New York City, reports of incidences of domestic violence have risen, “both in total number and as a percentage of total crime,” according to a briefing paper for the hearing prepared by the City Council. The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence reports that the NYPD responded to 91,600 domestic violence calls involving intimate partners in 2016, a 22.6% increase over 2015.</p> <p>Some attribute increases in reports to encouragement of such reporting and steps taken to educate people, especially women, about their opportunities to report abuse and resources available to victims. While it is still a challenge, the stigma around reporting domestic violence has been reduced.</p> <p>City Council Member Rory Lancman, the chair of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, led the hearing and was at several points the only elected official in the room.</p> <p>“Every act of domestic violence ripples out to affect our city -- it leads to homelessness, health problems and hospital visits, police interventions, lost jobs or missed time, not to mention its effect on children’s wellbeing and education,” Lancman said. “How our City manages the legal proceedings associated with domestic violence cases plays a major role in determining the services victims receive and how we are able to hold perpetrators accountable.</p> <p>Lancman also specifically noted the importance of the IDV courts in his remarks.</p> <p>“For the better part of two decades now, New York’s Court system has been on the forefront of the movement to provide specialty courts to handle domestic violence cases. It is our responsibility to ensure the operations of DV and IDV courts, and the services they provide, are excellent no matter what the charge or court families end up in.”</p> <p>In November 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a task force on domestic violence, co-chaired by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Police Commissioner James O’Neill, to develop recommendations for how to comprehensively deal with domestic violence in the city. The Task Force submitted its initial <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVTF-2017-Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> to the mayor in May, with a host of recommendations encompassed within four main areas: expand child and youth prevention and intervention; enhance criminal justice responses; strengthen New York City communities; and improve citywide coordination to maximize results.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration had two officials testify Monday, discussing IDVs in the larger context of the city’s efforts to fight domestic violence.</p> <p>At the hearing, the ways in which IDVs benefit the system were discussed several times, but much of the focus was on reforms that could be made to the IDV system. For instance, despite increased attention upon individual cases across multiple legal disciplines, a 2010 Harvard <a href="https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4772900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a>, cited by the committee, found that “protective orders took longer to process and issue in IDV courts, and were not significantly more likely to be granted compared to those filed in Criminal Domestic Violence Courts.”</p> <p>Further, IDVs suffer from a chronic lack of resources, according to experts who testified to the committee. Lindsey Wallace, of Sanctuary for Families, testified regarding the poor resource allocation negatively impacting IDVs, despite casting Brooklyn’s IDV system as a “national model.”</p> <p>“Many of the critical services IDVC judges wish to order for these families are not available, or there are lengthy waiting lists,” Wallace said. “Of the most critical importance is the need for institutional providers of supervised visitation.”</p> <p>Supervised visitation refers to allowing parents involved in a domestic violence dispute the opportunity to see their children, who may have been taken away from them, under close supervision. This is one of the most sensitive areas in domestic violence policy, as parents will often be desperate to see their children, but a lack of services to facilitate these visits can cause a backlog in supervisors.</p> <p>Supervised visitation emerged as possibly the most prominent of the resource problems according to those testifying before the Council committee on Monday. Esther Morgenstern, a Kings County Supreme Court judge who presides over Brooklyn’s IDV court, gave a similar diagnosis to Wallace’s.</p> <p>“When it comes to supervised visitation, there’s a real lacking of services,” Morgenstern said. “And when you’re at the end of the case, two years have gone by, the criminal cases have resolved, and matrimonial has resolved, the children, we still want them to reconnect with the noncustodial parent. And very often I sign 722c orders, which allows the court to use city and state funds to have those visitations occur. But there’s a real need for additional funds for supervised visitation.” She went on to request a grant for supervised visitation services from the City Council.</p> <p>Other areas of potential IDV reform were also touched upon. Kathleen Daniel, a domestic violence survivor and advocate, noted that there is a “lack of integration for DV families outside of criminal court,” referring to the degree to which relevant information is shared between entities like courts and legal services. IDV is, according to Daniel, the only integrated step in the court process for domestic violence.</p> <p>Daniel further recommended that renewing restraining orders should be made easier and pressed for a “mandated mediation program” of one to two years “to ensure co-parenting and the best interests of children are the priority.”</p> <p>Representing the de Blasio administration Monday were Elizabeth Dank of the Office to Combat Domestic Violence and Nicole Torres of the Office of Criminal Justice. Dank and Torres discussed IDV courts in the context of the administration’s larger push for domestic violence policy reform, such as the large number of families involved in disputes who utilize family justice centers during the legal process, a count of 62,000 in 2016.</p> <p>Lancman, the chair of the committee, asked Dank about the apparent problems with enough resources for supervised visitations. Dank discussed a program through Safe Horizons, a victim assistance organization, in partnership with the federal government, to provide a grant for supervised visitation in Queens, as well as other programs that she did not specify.</p> <p>“We agree that this is something that needs additional resources, and so we are looking at that matter through the task force currently,” said Dank. The de Blasio administration is expected to make a series of announcements in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as it did last year.</p> <p>Lancman also asked Dank about why some more serious offenses, in most cases felonies, do not end up in front of IDVs where these cases could receive more individualized attention. In other words, the more serious the case, the more likely it is to have to go through even more judicial bureaucracy, as opposed to non-felony offenses, which more often land in an IDV.</p> <p>Dank shifted back to resources, stating that the administration’s aim is, regardless of the seriousness of the offense, to ensure that resources are available to families going through the process.</p> <p>While many areas in need of reform or improvement were noted, the positives of IDVs were not lost on those testifying Monday. A large benefit of IDVs is the streamlining of the legal process for domestic violence victims and their families.</p> <p>“If you go into family court just to file for custody or for an order of protection,” said Judge Morgenstern, “your return date on proof of service could be three months. In my [court], when there’s an arrest, and a match is made, within two weeks you’ll be before the IDV court. So, IDV, the fact that we’re looking at all of the cases brings the issues before the court much quicker.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
As Incident Reports Rise, City Officials Seek New Answers to Combat Domestic Violence 2017-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7203:as-incident-reports-rise-officials-seek-new-answers-to-combat-domestic-violence Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/30466521602_58101664d7_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio McCray Ferreras domestic violence" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; others announce new measures (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Increases in reports of domestic violence have gotten the attention New York City officials, from Mayor Bill de Blasio to the NYPD to members of the City Council. The de Blasio administration has taken a series of steps to address the problem and is promising more; while new legislation is expected to soon pass in the City Council.</p> <p>On Monday, the Council’s Committee on Courts and Legal Services will hold an oversight hearing on New York’s Domestic Violence Courts and Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, which dedicate specific judges, counselors, and other resources to domestic violence cases. The committee, chaired by Council Member Rory Lancman, has indicated the hearing comes “as the number of domestic violence crimes in New York City continue to rise and domestic violence has become the leading cause of homelessness in the City.”</p> <p>In 2016, there were&nbsp;76,237 domestic violence incident reports in New York City, up from 75,241 in 2015. There were 59 intimate partner homicides in New York City in 2016, up from 49 in 2015, according to the mayor's office.</p> <p>In November 2016, de Blasio launched a domestic violence task force, noting that while the city’s homicide rate has dropped 82% over 25 years, domestic violence homicides have remained stagnant, and the mayor received <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVTF-2017-Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its report</a> in May of this year, promising “$7 million to better apprehend abusers [and] ensure support for survivors.”</p> <p>In August, Bea Hanson started as executive director of the Domestic Violence Task Force, according to a City Hall spokesperson, and she is working with First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD officials, including Commissioner Jimmy O’Neil, to implement task force recommendations. More will be announced next month, in October, which is domestic violence awareness month, according to the spokesperson.</p> <p>The spokesperson added that the city is working to develop a better coordinated criminal justice and social service response to incidences of domestic violence. As the city’s overall crime rate has dropped significantly, domestic violence incidents have become an increasingly high proportion of violent crime.</p> <p>“It’s a good thing that we’re hearing more and more,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan, a member of the Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues and co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus. “That means that people trust the police enough to call more and more.”</p> <p>One initiative in place to combat domestic violence, started by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, which runs New York City Family Justice Centers, which serve nearly 3,000 victims and their families every month. The Family Justice Centers, now located in every borough, offer both civil and criminal legal aid, healthy relationship training for youth, as well as social services, and are a “one stop shop” for information and resources related to domestic violence, sex trafficking, and even elder abuse, according to Elizabeth Dank, a deputy commissioner at the Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV).</p> <p>“One of the biggest programs out of our office [are] the New York City Family Justice Centers,” said Dank. “The first Family Justice Center was launched in Brooklyn in 2005, and it was the first one in the city and it was actually one of the first ones in the country. We have the largest network of Family Justice Centers in the country per municipality.”</p> <p>According to Dank, the OCDV was one of the first government agencies in the country to be devoted to domestic violence, and it tries to do as much outreach as possible to remain a cutting-edge force in preventing and prioritizing domestic violence.</p> <p>“We also have [partners] who help with benefits and economic empowerment classes, financial literacy classes, computer skills, and job training classes, so really the goal is that victims can come to one location and receive all of the services they need instead of having to jump around government agencies to get the services they need,” said Dank. “We do also do a lot of work around training.”</p> <p>Training initiatives include the healthy relationship training, which focuses on raising awareness among young people about dating and sexual violence among. The OCDV also helps train advocacy groups, and works closely with the Domestic Violence Task Force, which is tasked with finding innovative ways to combat domestic violence.</p> <p>In the Domestic Violence Initiative Report from October 2016, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office calls domestic violence “one of the most underreported crimes in the United States” with reporting rates of less than 30 percent, primarily due victims’ fear of retaliation by abusers, fear of losing child custody, fear of losing financial resources, or the belief that a report to the police will not change their situation. For domestic violence involving one or more immigrants, fear of deportation is also prevalent.</p> <p>“One issue [people] have been focusing on is financial abuse and economic barriers to independence,” said Jae Young Kim, supervising attorney for the Domestic Violence Legal Education and Advocacy Program at the Urban Resource Institute, which is host to six victim shelters and offers legal aid to victims. “Even though we’re not in the 2008 recession anymore, the economy is still not great. I think when you’re dealing with [survivors] especially, economic stability is often times one of the top issues when people are deciding whether to leave a relationship or not.”</p> <p>A large part of obtaining and maintaining financial independence for victims includes being able to leave their residence and find a new place to live, but according to Kim, the state law allowing victims to leave, RPL 227-c, is “completely unworkable.”</p> <p>Diane Johnston, a staff attorney for Legal Aid Society, agrees, stating in her testimony at a hearing held by the City Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues that “While well-intentioned, the current law is unduly burdensome and effectively bars countless survivors from obtaining the intended relief,” citing the often difficult eligibility requirements as the problem.</p> <p>“It required someone to be current on their rent, have an order of protection, and then they would reach out to the landlord and say, ‘I need to terminate my lease for my safety,’ [then] notify their co-tenant, and if the landlord chose not to terminate based on that written request, then they’d be able to go to court to file [asking] the landlord to terminate their lease,” said Kim.</p> <p>The process could take several months, during which the victim must remain current on their rent, even though they would not be living in their apartment anymore, thus severely limiting their options.</p> <p>“Most people can’t afford to pay rent on two apartments,” said Kim. “This is New York City!”</p> <p>The report also mentions that leaving an abuser “is no guarantee of safety” as “victims are at the greatest risk of homicide, severe physical and sexual assault, stalking, and menacing in the first few months after attempting to or succeeding in leaving an abuser.”</p> <p>Kim confirmed this, and said that she has seen it happen while representing victims in court.</p> <p>“You’re going to a place, usually once every six weeks for a year, and you’re safe in the courthouse but eventually you have to leave,” said Kim. “You have to go home, and it’s always a potential spot where an abuser can follow you, can stalk you, and I’ve seen that...It’s not safe.”</p> <p>According to Kim, despite an often overwhelming police and legal presence, batterers will sometimes ignore protection orders and attempt to approach victims after court proceedings, even following them all the way back to her office.</p> <p>The City Council Committee on Women’s Issues’ hearing, in late June, was in response to some of these concerns, and an attempt to try to improve the system and to provide more justice to domestic violence victims by making their process of breaking a lease easier.</p> <p>At the hearing, the committee introduced two bills, Intros. 1610 and 1496, which would, respectively, , add “at least one hour of training biennially to persons licensed to practice cosmetology,” so that hairdressers can better spot domestic violence victims, and change the term “chronic offender” to include perpetrators who had “been identified in more than one domestic incident report” in order to identify those who are batterers in multiple relationships, and a resolution, Res. 1292, which calls for modifications to the state law, 227-c, to make it easier for victims to move out of their residences.</p> <p>The change to current state law being sought would make it that the only thing needed from victims to break their lease would be a relevant police report. Police reports would be considered adequate on a case by case basis, crimes must be related to domestic violence to qualify.</p> <p>“That’s the toughest one to get through, because this is an area the state regulates, and the state would have to pass legislation that will make it easier for people to break their leases,” said Rosenthal. “What the city will do, what we’ll do, is pass a resolution in support of specific ideas that will make it easier for people to break their leases. But it’s the state that has the power on this one. They will have to amend the Real Property Law to do that.”</p> <p>Rosenthal stressed that the City Council will be working with state colleagues to get the legislation pushed through.</p> <p>“I think the important thing here…is the distinction between using something in the criminal justice system in order to break a lease, versus something that requires less criminal justice intervention,” said Rosenthal. “It may be the case that getting a court order is not something [a victim] can do, so what we’re asking the state to do is make it easier.”</p> <p>In addition to the lease legislation, the additional prevention and identification measure of requiring hairdressers to take a course on how to spot signs of domestic violence among clients was also introduced. Rosenthal was inspired both by a similar bill passed in Illinois, and by a conversation she had with a woman doing her nails while on vacation, who said that even though she often sees signs of domestic violence from clients, she didn’t know who to turn to.</p> <p>“The conversation was fascinating…and as [it] went on, she said that she was a victim of domestic violence herself,” said Rosenthal. “That conversation was an eye-opener for me, and I’m really glad we’re trying to find a way to have similar legislation here in New York City.”</p> <p>“Our goal is to have the legislation pass in October, which is domestic violence awareness month,” Rosenthal said this summer. “I think [it will pass] -- our conversations have been very constructive.”</p> <p>Another measure that could pass next month is the “paid safe leave” legislation introduced by City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in conjunction with the de Blasio administration, which would amend the city’s paid sick leave law to allow domestic violence victims to use paid sick leave when seeking help, refuge, or justice.</p> <p>When Ferreras-Copeland and de Blasio announced the legislation, last October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, de Blasio noted that in 2015, “the NYPD received on average one domestic violence report every two minutes.” In June of this year, NYPD statistics <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/stats/reports-analysis/domestic-violence.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">show</a> over 16,000 police responses to domestic violence related calls. At a press conference earlier this year, NYPD officials responded a question from Gotham Gazette with a frank assessment of how challenging it is to drive down instances of domestic violence. Top NYPD leaders indicated that they are constantly assessing patterns and ways to work with partners to prevent domestic violence and bring abusers to justice, but that they are among the most complicated and delicate crimes.</p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVTF-2017-Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the report</a> from de Blasio’s task force, published earlier this year, includes its own series of recommendations, all part of accomplishing four broad goals: “prevent violence and abusive behavior before it happens; increase early reporting and engagement by survivors; enhance the response of the criminal justice system; and create strategies for long-term violence reduction and innovative practices to hold offenders accountable.”</p> <p>The recommendations also fit four broad categories: “Expanding child and youth prevention and intervention; Enhancing criminal justice system responses; Strengthening New York City communities; and Improving citywide coordination to maximize resources.”</p> <p>The recommendations range from standardizing domestic violence data collection and reporting across city agencies to “OCDV will introduce evening hours one day per week at the three NYC Family Justice Centers (FJCs) with the highest client flow.” The city is also looking to integrate more services with those that are part of First Lady Chirlane McCray's ThriveNYC mental health care program.</p> <p>Another example of a specific recommendation is expanding “Child Trauma Response Teams,” which provide “a coordinated, immediate, trauma-focused response to children and their family members who are exposed to domestic violence.” This recommendation comes, in part, because of the fact that “children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to become involved in an abusive relationship in their teens or as an adult.”</p> <p>***<br />by Jynn Schubert and Ben Max</p> <p>

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by Jynn Schubert for Gotham Gazette
@JynnWasHere  @GothamGazette

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</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected with accurate data on domestic violence reports in 2016 and 2015; and data for 2014 and 2013 was removed.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/30466521602_58101664d7_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio McCray Ferreras domestic violence" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; others announce new measures (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Increases in reports of domestic violence have gotten the attention New York City officials, from Mayor Bill de Blasio to the NYPD to members of the City Council. The de Blasio administration has taken a series of steps to address the problem and is promising more; while new legislation is expected to soon pass in the City Council.</p> <p>On Monday, the Council’s Committee on Courts and Legal Services will hold an oversight hearing on New York’s Domestic Violence Courts and Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, which dedicate specific judges, counselors, and other resources to domestic violence cases. The committee, chaired by Council Member Rory Lancman, has indicated the hearing comes “as the number of domestic violence crimes in New York City continue to rise and domestic violence has become the leading cause of homelessness in the City.”</p> <p>In 2016, there were&nbsp;76,237 domestic violence incident reports in New York City, up from 75,241 in 2015. There were 59 intimate partner homicides in New York City in 2016, up from 49 in 2015, according to the mayor's office.</p> <p>In November 2016, de Blasio launched a domestic violence task force, noting that while the city’s homicide rate has dropped 82% over 25 years, domestic violence homicides have remained stagnant, and the mayor received <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVTF-2017-Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its report</a> in May of this year, promising “$7 million to better apprehend abusers [and] ensure support for survivors.”</p> <p>In August, Bea Hanson started as executive director of the Domestic Violence Task Force, according to a City Hall spokesperson, and she is working with First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD officials, including Commissioner Jimmy O’Neil, to implement task force recommendations. More will be announced next month, in October, which is domestic violence awareness month, according to the spokesperson.</p> <p>The spokesperson added that the city is working to develop a better coordinated criminal justice and social service response to incidences of domestic violence. As the city’s overall crime rate has dropped significantly, domestic violence incidents have become an increasingly high proportion of violent crime.</p> <p>“It’s a good thing that we’re hearing more and more,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan, a member of the Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues and co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus. “That means that people trust the police enough to call more and more.”</p> <p>One initiative in place to combat domestic violence, started by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, which runs New York City Family Justice Centers, which serve nearly 3,000 victims and their families every month. The Family Justice Centers, now located in every borough, offer both civil and criminal legal aid, healthy relationship training for youth, as well as social services, and are a “one stop shop” for information and resources related to domestic violence, sex trafficking, and even elder abuse, according to Elizabeth Dank, a deputy commissioner at the Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV).</p> <p>“One of the biggest programs out of our office [are] the New York City Family Justice Centers,” said Dank. “The first Family Justice Center was launched in Brooklyn in 2005, and it was the first one in the city and it was actually one of the first ones in the country. We have the largest network of Family Justice Centers in the country per municipality.”</p> <p>According to Dank, the OCDV was one of the first government agencies in the country to be devoted to domestic violence, and it tries to do as much outreach as possible to remain a cutting-edge force in preventing and prioritizing domestic violence.</p> <p>“We also have [partners] who help with benefits and economic empowerment classes, financial literacy classes, computer skills, and job training classes, so really the goal is that victims can come to one location and receive all of the services they need instead of having to jump around government agencies to get the services they need,” said Dank. “We do also do a lot of work around training.”</p> <p>Training initiatives include the healthy relationship training, which focuses on raising awareness among young people about dating and sexual violence among. The OCDV also helps train advocacy groups, and works closely with the Domestic Violence Task Force, which is tasked with finding innovative ways to combat domestic violence.</p> <p>In the Domestic Violence Initiative Report from October 2016, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office calls domestic violence “one of the most underreported crimes in the United States” with reporting rates of less than 30 percent, primarily due victims’ fear of retaliation by abusers, fear of losing child custody, fear of losing financial resources, or the belief that a report to the police will not change their situation. For domestic violence involving one or more immigrants, fear of deportation is also prevalent.</p> <p>“One issue [people] have been focusing on is financial abuse and economic barriers to independence,” said Jae Young Kim, supervising attorney for the Domestic Violence Legal Education and Advocacy Program at the Urban Resource Institute, which is host to six victim shelters and offers legal aid to victims. “Even though we’re not in the 2008 recession anymore, the economy is still not great. I think when you’re dealing with [survivors] especially, economic stability is often times one of the top issues when people are deciding whether to leave a relationship or not.”</p> <p>A large part of obtaining and maintaining financial independence for victims includes being able to leave their residence and find a new place to live, but according to Kim, the state law allowing victims to leave, RPL 227-c, is “completely unworkable.”</p> <p>Diane Johnston, a staff attorney for Legal Aid Society, agrees, stating in her testimony at a hearing held by the City Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues that “While well-intentioned, the current law is unduly burdensome and effectively bars countless survivors from obtaining the intended relief,” citing the often difficult eligibility requirements as the problem.</p> <p>“It required someone to be current on their rent, have an order of protection, and then they would reach out to the landlord and say, ‘I need to terminate my lease for my safety,’ [then] notify their co-tenant, and if the landlord chose not to terminate based on that written request, then they’d be able to go to court to file [asking] the landlord to terminate their lease,” said Kim.</p> <p>The process could take several months, during which the victim must remain current on their rent, even though they would not be living in their apartment anymore, thus severely limiting their options.</p> <p>“Most people can’t afford to pay rent on two apartments,” said Kim. “This is New York City!”</p> <p>The report also mentions that leaving an abuser “is no guarantee of safety” as “victims are at the greatest risk of homicide, severe physical and sexual assault, stalking, and menacing in the first few months after attempting to or succeeding in leaving an abuser.”</p> <p>Kim confirmed this, and said that she has seen it happen while representing victims in court.</p> <p>“You’re going to a place, usually once every six weeks for a year, and you’re safe in the courthouse but eventually you have to leave,” said Kim. “You have to go home, and it’s always a potential spot where an abuser can follow you, can stalk you, and I’ve seen that...It’s not safe.”</p> <p>According to Kim, despite an often overwhelming police and legal presence, batterers will sometimes ignore protection orders and attempt to approach victims after court proceedings, even following them all the way back to her office.</p> <p>The City Council Committee on Women’s Issues’ hearing, in late June, was in response to some of these concerns, and an attempt to try to improve the system and to provide more justice to domestic violence victims by making their process of breaking a lease easier.</p> <p>At the hearing, the committee introduced two bills, Intros. 1610 and 1496, which would, respectively, , add “at least one hour of training biennially to persons licensed to practice cosmetology,” so that hairdressers can better spot domestic violence victims, and change the term “chronic offender” to include perpetrators who had “been identified in more than one domestic incident report” in order to identify those who are batterers in multiple relationships, and a resolution, Res. 1292, which calls for modifications to the state law, 227-c, to make it easier for victims to move out of their residences.</p> <p>The change to current state law being sought would make it that the only thing needed from victims to break their lease would be a relevant police report. Police reports would be considered adequate on a case by case basis, crimes must be related to domestic violence to qualify.</p> <p>“That’s the toughest one to get through, because this is an area the state regulates, and the state would have to pass legislation that will make it easier for people to break their leases,” said Rosenthal. “What the city will do, what we’ll do, is pass a resolution in support of specific ideas that will make it easier for people to break their leases. But it’s the state that has the power on this one. They will have to amend the Real Property Law to do that.”</p> <p>Rosenthal stressed that the City Council will be working with state colleagues to get the legislation pushed through.</p> <p>“I think the important thing here…is the distinction between using something in the criminal justice system in order to break a lease, versus something that requires less criminal justice intervention,” said Rosenthal. “It may be the case that getting a court order is not something [a victim] can do, so what we’re asking the state to do is make it easier.”</p> <p>In addition to the lease legislation, the additional prevention and identification measure of requiring hairdressers to take a course on how to spot signs of domestic violence among clients was also introduced. Rosenthal was inspired both by a similar bill passed in Illinois, and by a conversation she had with a woman doing her nails while on vacation, who said that even though she often sees signs of domestic violence from clients, she didn’t know who to turn to.</p> <p>“The conversation was fascinating…and as [it] went on, she said that she was a victim of domestic violence herself,” said Rosenthal. “That conversation was an eye-opener for me, and I’m really glad we’re trying to find a way to have similar legislation here in New York City.”</p> <p>“Our goal is to have the legislation pass in October, which is domestic violence awareness month,” Rosenthal said this summer. “I think [it will pass] -- our conversations have been very constructive.”</p> <p>Another measure that could pass next month is the “paid safe leave” legislation introduced by City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in conjunction with the de Blasio administration, which would amend the city’s paid sick leave law to allow domestic violence victims to use paid sick leave when seeking help, refuge, or justice.</p> <p>When Ferreras-Copeland and de Blasio announced the legislation, last October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, de Blasio noted that in 2015, “the NYPD received on average one domestic violence report every two minutes.” In June of this year, NYPD statistics <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/stats/reports-analysis/domestic-violence.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">show</a> over 16,000 police responses to domestic violence related calls. At a press conference earlier this year, NYPD officials responded a question from Gotham Gazette with a frank assessment of how challenging it is to drive down instances of domestic violence. Top NYPD leaders indicated that they are constantly assessing patterns and ways to work with partners to prevent domestic violence and bring abusers to justice, but that they are among the most complicated and delicate crimes.</p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVTF-2017-Recommendations.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the report</a> from de Blasio’s task force, published earlier this year, includes its own series of recommendations, all part of accomplishing four broad goals: “prevent violence and abusive behavior before it happens; increase early reporting and engagement by survivors; enhance the response of the criminal justice system; and create strategies for long-term violence reduction and innovative practices to hold offenders accountable.”</p> <p>The recommendations also fit four broad categories: “Expanding child and youth prevention and intervention; Enhancing criminal justice system responses; Strengthening New York City communities; and Improving citywide coordination to maximize resources.”</p> <p>The recommendations range from standardizing domestic violence data collection and reporting across city agencies to “OCDV will introduce evening hours one day per week at the three NYC Family Justice Centers (FJCs) with the highest client flow.” The city is also looking to integrate more services with those that are part of First Lady Chirlane McCray's ThriveNYC mental health care program.</p> <p>Another example of a specific recommendation is expanding “Child Trauma Response Teams,” which provide “a coordinated, immediate, trauma-focused response to children and their family members who are exposed to domestic violence.” This recommendation comes, in part, because of the fact that “children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to become involved in an abusive relationship in their teens or as an adult.”</p> <p>***<br />by Jynn Schubert and Ben Max</p> <p>

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by Jynn Schubert for Gotham Gazette
@JynnWasHere  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected with accurate data on domestic violence reports in 2016 and 2015; and data for 2014 and 2013 was removed.</p>
To Eradicate Sex Trafficking, Prosecute the Pimps and Buyers 2016-02-01T22:17:30+00:00 2016-02-01T22:17:30+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6133:to-eradicate-sex-trafficking-prosecute-the-pimps-and-buyers Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ehibibcb.jpg" alt="hersh" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Lauren Hersh, the author (at podium), and other activists&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Sarah was 13 years old when she was lured into prostitution by two men from her New York City neighborhood. For the next two years, she was sold to buyers who were eager to purchase her adolescent body. Her pimp required her to meet a quota and when she didn't, she was brutalized.</p> <p>There were many moments when Sarah tried to leave the life of prostitution. Each time, her exploiter would threaten to harm her or worse, her little sister. Sarah felt helpless and trapped. So, she stayed.</p> <p>Sarah was bought by men who wore business suits and went home to their wives and children. The money they paid would pass through Sarah's hands and land in her pimp's pocket. While her pimp and the buyers operated with impunity, Sarah was harassed and arrested by police more times than she could count.</p> <p>For years, New York court dockets were filled with women and girls who were pulled off the street, brought before judges, sent to jail, and then returned back into the hands of their exploiters. This vicious cycle was fueled by laws that failed to adequately protect victims and a public perception that people in prostitution were there of their own free will and should be punished in an effort to "clean up the streets."</p> <p>In 2013, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman created Human Trafficking Intervention Courts after recognizing that the vast majority of women arrested for prostitution were, in fact, victims of trafficking or other forms of exploitation. These courts sought to provide people in prostitution with exit strategies and comprehensive services, instead of jail time and criminal records.</p> <p>Simultaneously, a widespread movement to change the New York State Human Trafficking Laws was gaining momentum. Survivors and advocates were frustrated that in New York, sex trafficking was still a non-violent felony and people who purchased children for sex were receiving lower penalties than those who committed a purse snatch.</p> <p>District Attorneys needed better tools to prosecute exploiters. Victims needed better protections. Change was necessary to reflect the growing understanding that in order to eliminate trafficking, it was necessary to hold traffickers and buyers accountable, not people in prostitution.</p> <p>Albany responded to pleas for progress. In October 2015, Governor Cuomo signed the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act into law, a comprehensive bill that increases accountability for those who exploit, while providing protections for some of society's most marginalized. Last week, survivors around the state cheered as this law went into effect.</p> <p>The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act can absolutely be a game changer. But, like any law, it makes no difference if it is not enforced. And this is a significant task.</p> <p>Sarah's experience with our criminal justice system signals a need for change.</p> <p>Specifically, we need widespread police training not only about the new law, but the complexity of exploitation and best practices for prevention. Police departments must continue to shift perspectives on prostitution.</p> <p>Government resources must be used to prosecute traffickers and to eliminate the demand for prostitution by going after buyers. It's a simple case of supply and demand: without buyers, there's no profit for the sellers. Successful trafficking prevention must include sex-buyer accountability.</p> <p>Law enforcement cannot eliminate trafficking alone. Resources must be allocated to heighten community awareness and provide in-depth training for those on the front lines. School teachers, medical professionals, and those working with children in foster care, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations often meet young victims, but without adequate trafficking training, they may miss critical signs of exploitation.</p> <p>Today, Sarah* is a lawyer and one of the fiercest anti-trafficking advocates you will ever meet. But she can't do it alone. The notion that prostitution is a victimless crime must be banished from our vernacular. People in prostitution must be seen for what they are: victims of modern-day slavery and sexual violence.</p> <p>It's incumbent on all of us – including our elected officials at the federal, state and local levels, the judiciary, law enforcement, and everyday citizens – to do what we can to prevent even one young girl from living the hell that Sarah endured.</p> <p><em>*Note: Sarah (a pseudonym), is now in her late twenties and still receives threats against her life from her former pimp. Her safety requires full anonymity.</em></p> <p>***<br />Lauren Hersh is Director of Anti-Trafficking Policy and Advocacy at the NYC-based <a href="https://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/" target="_blank">Sanctuary for Families</a>, a leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ehibibcb.jpg" alt="hersh" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Lauren Hersh, the author (at podium), and other activists&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Sarah was 13 years old when she was lured into prostitution by two men from her New York City neighborhood. For the next two years, she was sold to buyers who were eager to purchase her adolescent body. Her pimp required her to meet a quota and when she didn't, she was brutalized.</p> <p>There were many moments when Sarah tried to leave the life of prostitution. Each time, her exploiter would threaten to harm her or worse, her little sister. Sarah felt helpless and trapped. So, she stayed.</p> <p>Sarah was bought by men who wore business suits and went home to their wives and children. The money they paid would pass through Sarah's hands and land in her pimp's pocket. While her pimp and the buyers operated with impunity, Sarah was harassed and arrested by police more times than she could count.</p> <p>For years, New York court dockets were filled with women and girls who were pulled off the street, brought before judges, sent to jail, and then returned back into the hands of their exploiters. This vicious cycle was fueled by laws that failed to adequately protect victims and a public perception that people in prostitution were there of their own free will and should be punished in an effort to "clean up the streets."</p> <p>In 2013, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman created Human Trafficking Intervention Courts after recognizing that the vast majority of women arrested for prostitution were, in fact, victims of trafficking or other forms of exploitation. These courts sought to provide people in prostitution with exit strategies and comprehensive services, instead of jail time and criminal records.</p> <p>Simultaneously, a widespread movement to change the New York State Human Trafficking Laws was gaining momentum. Survivors and advocates were frustrated that in New York, sex trafficking was still a non-violent felony and people who purchased children for sex were receiving lower penalties than those who committed a purse snatch.</p> <p>District Attorneys needed better tools to prosecute exploiters. Victims needed better protections. Change was necessary to reflect the growing understanding that in order to eliminate trafficking, it was necessary to hold traffickers and buyers accountable, not people in prostitution.</p> <p>Albany responded to pleas for progress. In October 2015, Governor Cuomo signed the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act into law, a comprehensive bill that increases accountability for those who exploit, while providing protections for some of society's most marginalized. Last week, survivors around the state cheered as this law went into effect.</p> <p>The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act can absolutely be a game changer. But, like any law, it makes no difference if it is not enforced. And this is a significant task.</p> <p>Sarah's experience with our criminal justice system signals a need for change.</p> <p>Specifically, we need widespread police training not only about the new law, but the complexity of exploitation and best practices for prevention. Police departments must continue to shift perspectives on prostitution.</p> <p>Government resources must be used to prosecute traffickers and to eliminate the demand for prostitution by going after buyers. It's a simple case of supply and demand: without buyers, there's no profit for the sellers. Successful trafficking prevention must include sex-buyer accountability.</p> <p>Law enforcement cannot eliminate trafficking alone. Resources must be allocated to heighten community awareness and provide in-depth training for those on the front lines. School teachers, medical professionals, and those working with children in foster care, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations often meet young victims, but without adequate trafficking training, they may miss critical signs of exploitation.</p> <p>Today, Sarah* is a lawyer and one of the fiercest anti-trafficking advocates you will ever meet. But she can't do it alone. The notion that prostitution is a victimless crime must be banished from our vernacular. People in prostitution must be seen for what they are: victims of modern-day slavery and sexual violence.</p> <p>It's incumbent on all of us – including our elected officials at the federal, state and local levels, the judiciary, law enforcement, and everyday citizens – to do what we can to prevent even one young girl from living the hell that Sarah endured.</p> <p><em>*Note: Sarah (a pseudonym), is now in her late twenties and still receives threats against her life from her former pimp. Her safety requires full anonymity.</em></p> <p>***<br />Lauren Hersh is Director of Anti-Trafficking Policy and Advocacy at the NYC-based <a href="https://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/" target="_blank">Sanctuary for Families</a>, a leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>