Benefits and Resources
As a victim of domestic violence, you are provided special protections under the law to help keep you safe while accessing benefits and resources. Here are some of the resources:
Department of Social Services
Your local Department of Social Services (DSS) provides temporary assistance, such as cash assistance and SNAP (formerly called food stamps). Every county has a local DSS office. When you go to your local DSS office, bring several forms of photo ID, your Social Security card, your birth certificate, and proof of address, such as a utility bill.
If you identify yourself as a victim of domestic violence, you have the right to see the Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL) in the DSS office, and you can request to see the DVL at any time.
If you do not have access to your order of protection or other documentation, or are unable to comply with program requirements because they affect your safety, the DVL can assist you. You do not need an order of protection or any other documents to prove that you are a victim of domestic violence.
In New York City, temporary assistance is known as public assistance and is provided by the Human Resource Administration (HRA) through “Centers” located in each borough. For more information about NYC Centers, please contact the HRA Info line at (718) 557-1399.
For more information about working with the Department of Social Services, go to the Working with Systems page.
New York State Office of Victim Services
The New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) gives financial relief to victims of crime and their families. Payments are available for crime-related expenses. Victims may be compensated for crime-related expenses including, but not limited to:
- Medical and burial expenses
- Loss of earnings or support
- Counseling costs
- The cost to repair or replace personal property
- Security system installation expenses
- Some court and/or medical transportation expenses
- The cost of staying at a domestic violence shelter
- Emergency moving expenses
- Limited attorney fees
People who may be able to get OVS compensation include, but are not limited to:
- Innocent victims of a crime
- Victims of crime who were physically injured because of the crime
- Victims of crime who are under age 18, age 60 and over, or disabled, who were not physically injured because of the crime
- Relatives and/or dependents, including surviving spouses, children, parents, siblings, stepsiblings, stepparents, or people primarily dependent on a victim for support
- Child victims, children who witness a crime, and the children’s parent, stepparent, grandparent, guardian, siblings, or stepsiblings
- Victims of unlawful imprisonment or kidnapping
- Victims of trafficking
- Victims of stalking
- Victims of frivolous lawsuits brought by a person who committed a crime against a victim
Address Confidentiality Program
The New York State Department of State oversees the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) and provides substitute addresses for victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking and sexual offenses. If eligible, victims will be assigned a specific ACP post office box number that can be used to receive mail, including court documents. The ACP will then forward all mail to the victim’s home or another address. To be eligible, applicants must state that they are a victim of domestic violence, have left their home because of the violence and fear for their or their children’s safety. New legislation recognizes that victims of stalking, human trafficking and sexual offenses may also face safety concerns and need the same address protection that is provided to domestic violence victims enrolled in the program. Other people living in the same household with the victim may also be eligible. Participants are enrolled for four years but may reapply if an extension is needed. This address can be used as an official address for court petitions, driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, traffic tickets, unemployment insurance, school records, library cards, and applications for services such as public assistance or Medicaid, etc.
Counseling Services in Your Community
If counseling is a service you want for yourself or your children, call your local domestic violence program for suggestions. They can provide counseling and children’s services or refer you to an outside program. If you are employed, call your workplace employee assistance program (EAP), if your employer has one, for local services. If you are worried about the cost, ask for referrals to counselors who use a sliding fee scale. Look for a counselor who:
- Makes your safety, not your relationship, the priority
- Is willing to help you develop a safety plan that meets your needs
- Supports your right to make your own decisions
- Listens to you, takes you seriously, takes the abuse seriously, and doesn’t judge you or make you feel ashamed
- Doesn’t hold you responsible for your partner’s violence
- Doesn’t encourage you to try to get your partner to change
- Doesn’t ask you to bring your partner into the counseling session
- Is willing to work with a domestic violence advocate
- Understands that domestic violence is really about control, not about anger, stress, or alcohol/drug use
- Is sensitive to your cultural or religious beliefs
- Understands that many abused people use violence to fight back or defend themselves
You may request a "Special Absentee Ballot," which will allow you to vote without having to go to a public polling place. You must complete a form to request this ballot at your County Board of Elections.
You may also keep your voter registration records confidential. You must apply to the Supreme, County, or Family Court in the county where you live for a court order requiring the County Board of Elections to keep your registration information (including your address) private.
If you or your children are covered by health insurance (individual, group or HMO) and your partner is the policyholder, you can request confidentiality. Tell your insurance company that sharing access to medical records and billing information with your partner could put you or your children in danger. By making this request, you can ask that your or your children’s insurance claims, forms, billing information, etc., be sent to a confidential address that you choose.
Your address and telephone number will also be protected. Any description of health care services provided and the address and telephone number of the provider will be kept confidential. This law also applies to accident/auto insurance when you receive medical care for an accident.
You may be able to get an order from housing court (NYC only) or Supreme Court terminating your lease or rental agreement if you have an order of protection and can prove that you would be at risk if you remain in your home.
The law requires multiple steps. You must show the court that you told your landlord of your intent to move, that you asked them to release you from the lease and that your landlord refused. You must also show that you do not owe any money to your landlord.
The judge can decide to terminate the lease, even if your landlord objects. If you have a roommate who wants to stay in the apartment, you must show the court that you notified them of your plan to move and be taken off the lease. The judge can take you off the lease, even if your roommate objects.
No-fault divorce means that if you want to be divorced, you may file papers swearing that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” (it can’t be fixed) and that it has been that way for six months or longer. Your spouse cannot prevent the divorce by answering that they believe the marriage can be fixed.
The law requires that all matters relating to the marriage – maintenance (spousal support), child support, child custody and visitation, and division of property – must be agreed upon by the parties or decided by the court before the divorce can be granted. Neither spouse needs to say anything bad about the other, which may make no-fault divorce a safer option for victims of domestic violence.
New York has a mathematical formula for determining spousal. If one spouse earns a significantly higher income than the other, the spouse with the lower income may be entitled to support and/or attorney fees. This can also be helpful for victims who are trying to support themselves and become independent. A spouse with fewer economic resources may also be entitled to attorney fees from the other spouse
What Other Services Are Available?
Communities across the state offer services that can help meet some of your other needs. Domestic violence programs can give you information and referrals for these services, including:
- Educational opportunities
- Employment programs
- Culturally-specific services and groups
- Health-related services
- Low-income and/or affordable housing programs and relocation assistance
- Alcohol/other substance recovery programs
- Mental health services
- Children’s counseling services
- Parenting programs
- Support groups
- Child protective and preventive services
- Unemployment insurance
- Food stamps, food pantries
- Child health insurance