The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) today hosted its first-ever statewide summit aimed at helping law enforcement professionals and organizations that serve victims of domestic violence better identify and assist individuals at a high risk of being killed or seriously injured by an intimate partner. More than 150 professionals from across the state, including police and probation officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and service providers, attended the day-long conference in Albany.
“The key to preventing intimate partner violence is to identify those individuals who are most at risk of becoming a victim of lethal violence and then provide them with enhanced services,” said Gwen Wright, Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. “This summit will explore some of the strategies that are now helping communities in New York State recognize risk factors so that law enforcement and service providers can focus potentially life-saving intervention services before a serious injury or fatality occurs.”
The summit explored assessment tools designed to identify someone at risk of serious injury or death by an intimate partner and featured presentations by, and a roundtable discussion with, teams of service providers and law enforcement professionals that have received state funding to implement innovative risk reduction programs. The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence has provided funding to Unity House (Rensselaer County), Safe Homes of Orange County, the Center for Safety and Change (Rockland County), Westchester County Office for Women, Cayuga-Seneca Community Action (Cayuga County) and ACCORD (Allegany County) through its Risk Reduction Enhanced Response program.
Now in its fourth year, the program provides grants to state-licensed domestic violence service providers so they can partner with law enforcement to use a team approach and risk assessment tools to identify and respond to domestic violence cases that are at the highest risk for severe physical violence. The Risk Reduction Enhanced Response program aims to reduce the risk of intimate partner homicides; increase safety for victims; hold offenders accountable; reduce recidivism; and increase awareness of gaps in services. The program also provides training to improve the coordinated community response to domestic violence.
In addition, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, through its Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative, has supported the implementation of the Intimate Partner Violence Intervention strategy in Kingston (Ulster County). The strategy, developed by the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, engages the community, enhances enforcement to deter intimate partner violence and increases access to services that can help victims recover and offenders change patterns of criminal behavior.
The summit also featured remarks by author and activist Nicole Sharpe, who spoke about her personal experience with domestic violence. Ms. Sharpe was orphaned at 15 when her father killed her mother. Her experience motivated her to establish the Heather Hurley Foundation in her mother’s memory and through the Foundation, she advocates for education and prevention. Ms. Sharpe has the goal of incorporating the curriculum of Bloom 365, a national teen dating violence prevention educational initiative, into New York City’s high schools and junior high schools.
Under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's leadership, New York State has expanded its commitment to protecting victims and survivors of domestic violence. Earlier this year, New York adopted legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers, closing a loophole in state law by ensuring that all firearms, not just handguns, are surrendered by individuals convicted of domestic violence-related offenses. And just last week, Governor Cuomo announced nearly $16 million in grants to state-supported victim assistance programs so they could hire attorneys to handle civil legal matters for victims and survivors of domestic violence and other crimes.
Domestic violence occurs in communities both large and small and affects New Yorkers from all walks of life. There were more than 23,000 victims of intimate partner violence reported in New York City, and approximately 30,000 reported in counties outside of the five boroughs in 2017. Courts in New York State entered more than 183,000 temporary orders of protection into the Domestic Violence Registry last year; about 49,000 of these became final orders of protection. Domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines in New York State received more than 369,000 calls last year alone.
Last year, there were 59 intimate partner violence homicides in New York State, the fewest reported since 2007. Those homicides represented 11 percent of all homicides (547) statewide and female victims were disproportionately represented, accounting for 74 percent of intimate partner homicide victims in 2017.
The New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline (1-800-942-6906) offers help and information 24 hours a day, in English, Spanish and other languages. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can call 711. The state also supports and funds community-based programs to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence and other crimes:
New York State Office of Victim Services: ovs.ny.gov/locate-program
SUNY Sexual Assault and Violence Response Resources: suny.edu/violence-response
New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence: nyscadv.org
The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (opdv.ny.gov) has three primary areas of focus: to advise the Governor and Legislature on policies and practices for the state; to train professionals from all disciplines across the state about the intersection of domestic violence in their daily practice; and to serve as a resource regarding the issue of domestic violence by disseminating regular public awareness campaigns, publishing materials for use by non-profits and victims and highlighting best practices.