Know Your Rights

Domestic Violence Victim's Rights

When working with the police, you have rights. The following information is from the Victim's Rights Notice on the New York State Domestic Incident Report:

  • If you are the victim of domestic violence, you may request that the officer assist in providing for your safety and that of your children, including providing information on how to obtain a temporary order of protection.
  • You may also request that the officer assist you in obtaining your essential personal effects and locating and taking you, or assist in making arrangements to take you, and your children to a safe place within such officer's jurisdiction, including but not limited to a domestic violence program, a family member's or a friend's residence, or a similar place of safety.
  • When the officer's jurisdiction is more than a single county, you may ask the officer to take you or make arrangements to take you and your children to a place of safety in the county where the incident occurred.
  • If you or your children are in need of medical treatment, you have the right to request that the officer assist you in obtaining such medical treatment.
  • You may request a copy of any incident reports at no cost from the law enforcement agency.
  • You have the right to seek legal counsel of your own choosing and if you proceed in family court and if it is determined that you cannot afford an attorney, one must be appointed to represent you without cost to you.
  • You may ask the district attorney or a law enforcement officer to file a criminal complaint. You also have the right to file a petition in the family court when a family offense has been committed against you.
  • You have the right to have your petition and request for an order of protection filed on the same day you appear in court, and such request must be heard that same day or the next day court is in session.
  • Either court may issue an order of protection from conduct constituting a family offense which could include, among other provisions, an order for the respondent or defendant to stay away from you and your children.
  • The family court may also order the payment of temporary child support and award temporary custody of your children.
  • If the family court is not in session, you may seek immediate assistance from the criminal court in obtaining an order of protection.
  • The forms you need to obtain an order of protection are available from the family court and the local criminal court.

Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights

Survivors' Bill of Rights

The 'New York State Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights', reproduced below was created by the New York State Department of Health. It is required by New York State Law to be provided to every sexual assault victim before a medical facility begins a physical examination, or before any law enforcement agency begins an interview. It is a general information document, and you may download a copy to keep here.

The 'New York State Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights' is a list of general information about your rights. If you wish, all the information can be explained to you in more detail before any exam or interview takes place.

General Rights
  • You cannot be treated differently based on certain characteristics, such as race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, source of payment, sex, gender identity, or gender expression.
  • Your immigration status or national origin cannot affect your emergency care or services. You can ask for an interpreter if it is hard for you to understand or speak English.
  • Minors under the age of 17 have certain rights to make their own decisions without a parent or legal guardian.
Hospital Emergency Department Rights
Law Enforcement Rights
  • You can choose to report to the police or not.
  • You can choose to have or not have an advocate from the local rape crisis program stay with you during your interview with the police or prosecutor.
  • You will be given contact information for the police or prosecutor handling your case.
  • You can contact the police or prosecutor for information on the criminal investigation or legal proceedings. The police or prosecutor will inform you of any legal action related to your case.
  • If you choose to report to the police, your evidence will be tested within 100 days. You may contact the police for information on a DNA match.
  • If you choose not to report to the police, your evidence will be stored for 20 years, or until you decide to release it. You will be notified if your evidence is moved and before the storage period ends.

New York State Crime Victim's Rights

In New York State, victims of crimes have rights including:

  • The right to certain kinds of compensation and assistance;
  • the right to be notified of Judicial Proceedings;
  • rights during Judicial Proceedings;
  • the right to be free from intimidation;
  • the right to submit a Victim Impact Statement;
  • The right to restitution; and
  • others.

For more information about these rights, and additional rights of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, visit the New York State Office of Victims Services website or review the comprehensive guide.

Housing Rights

As a victim of domestic violence, you are considered a protective class under the Violence Against Women Act. You cannot:

  • Be denied admission or assistance for a rental housing program that you otherwise qualify for.
  • Be denied assistance, terminated from participation or be evicted from your rental housing.
  • Be denied rental assistance or occupancy rights solely based on criminal activity related to domestic violence.
  • Be denied the request to move to another unit if one is available.

Employee Rights

Workplace Rights

the Human Rights Law offers protections from employment discrimination. It is against the law to discriminate in hiring for a job, job advancement, requests for use of leave time, or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on an employee’s domestic violence victim status.

Safe leave

All private sector employees in New York State will earn sick and safe leave. These amounts will vary based on the size of their employer. Employees may use accrued leave following a verbal or written request to their employer for sick or safe leave for reasons impacting the employee or a member of their family for whom they are providing care or assistance with care.

Safe leave may be used for an absence from work when the employee or employee’s family member has been the victim of domestic violence as defined by the State Human Rights Law, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking due to any of the following as it relates to the domestic violence, family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking:

  • to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other services program;
  • to participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee’s family members;
  • to meet with an attorney or other social services provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in any criminal or civil proceeding;
  • to file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement;
  • to meet with a district attorney’s office;
  • to enroll children in a new school; or
  • to take any other actions necessary to ensure the health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.

Can an employee use safe leave if the police have not been contacted or the perpetrator has not been convicted?

Yes. An employee’s eligibility for safe leave is not dependent on reporting to law enforcement or a criminal conviction.

Who qualifies as a “family member” for the purposes of this law?

“Family member” is defined as an employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent; and the child or parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner. “Parent” is defined as a biological, foster, step- or adoptive parent, or a legal guardian of an employee, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child. “Child” is defined as a biological, adopted or foster child, a legal ward, or a child of an employee standing in loco parentis.

Does an employee’s immigration status affect whether they are entitled to sick or safe leave under the law?

No. An employee’s immigration status has no effect on their eligibility for sick or safe leave benefits under this law.

Unemployment Insurance

You may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if you had to leave your job because of domestic violence. To receive benefits, you must complete an application.

Public Benefits Rights

If you are a victim of domestic violence and are struggling financially, you can go to your local DSS office for help with a variety of needs. Some services include:

  • Help getting child support
  • Welfare benefits and cash assistance
  • Food stamps
  • Housing

There are requirements and programs that you will be asked to participant in. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please let the worker know right away. You should be given a screening form when you apply for cash assistance. It is important to ask to speak to the Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL) who can assist you with your case and talk about your options.

If you need services but cannot comply with DSS requirements:

  • DSS can provide a waiver. A waiver is a temporary delay from participating in certain assistance program requirements. If you are a victim of domestic violence and participating in those requirements puts you and/or your children at further risk of harm, the Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL) can grant you a waiver from certain program requirements that apply.
  • You can claim good cause. Good cause is a specific circumstance or reason why you cannot comply with DSS participation requirements. If you are a victim of domestic violence you may be able to claim good cause for not complying with Child Support requirements.

Child Protective Services

If you are a victim of domestic violence and involved with Child Protective Services or the Foster Care System:

  • You have rights.
  • You aren’t mandated to speak to CPS.
  • You may revoke a release at any time during the investigation.
  • You have the right to have someone present to support you while speaking to CPS.
  • Your domestic violence advocate from your local domestic violence program can help you navigate and support you throughout the process.
  • You can request a Fair Hearing if your case is indicated or founded.

Voting Rights

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.