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Just Thoughts is the blog of the Empire Justice Center, New York’s statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. Here staff and guest authors will share stories, announcements and perspectives on timely issues related to our work.    



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Bilingual Orders of Protection to be Issued on Long Island


Empire Justice Center and other advocacy groups that support domestic violence survivors were thrilled to learn that family courts on Long Island began issuing bilingual Orders of Protection in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian on January 4, 2016.  In response to a letter from a coalition of more than 10 Long Island based organizations, Office of Court Administration Executive Director Ronald Younkins announced the extension of a pilot project to issue Orders of Protection (OPs) in languages understood by limited English proficient (LEP) participants in family court proceedings in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.  The coalition of advocates had urged that bilingual OPs be made available on Long Island because of its large immigrant population and the potential dangers that arise when OPs are not understood by the people to whom they are directed. 

New York LEP residents have always been actively involved in family courts.  Victims of domestic violence will often petition in family court for OPs against abusers.  If a victim alleges that the abuser continues to represent a danger , the family court judge will issue a Temporary OP specifying what, if any, contact is permitted between the alleged victim and abuser prior to a hearing.  A temporary order will be extended if there is proof at a hearing that the abuser poses an active threat to the victim.

Until this year, however, OPs were only issued in English.  LEP domestic violence survivors often have access to language assistance and support from advocates, and interpreters are present in the courtroom.  However, when they return home with an order they are unable to read or understand, they will have difficulty if they need to seek its enforcement from the police or the court.  Additionally, it is problematic for the courts and law enforcement to insist on adherence to an order to stay away or refrain from certain activity if the order is in English and the LEP perpetrator cannot understand it.

New York began a pilot project in 2015 to issue bilingual OPs in English and Spanish in selected counties throughout the state.  The success of the pilot led the Office of Court Administration to expand the project to other counties and additional languages in 2016.  When Long Island advocacy groups realized that neither Suffolk nor Nassau County was included in the expansion despite the large LEP population in both counties, we wrote to OCA’s Executive Director and the Honorable C. Randall Hinrichs, the Tenth Judicial District Administrative Judge who oversees the administration of state courts in these counties, asking for reconsideration.  As a result, OCA determined to include Long Island in the 2016 expansion.

The availability of bilingual OPs will improve the safety of Long Island residents and may save lives.  Empire Justice and other advocates will continue to press for translation of bilingual OPs and other vital court documents into Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish, and other widely used languages to offer greater protection to as many people as possible.  But for today, we can celebrate that the family courts are poised to take an important step in safeguarding our communities.









Empire Justice Center to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

Issue Area: Domestic Violence

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Alternatives for Battered Women, Monroe County’s licensed domestic violence organization, will hold its annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event at Ontario Beach Park.  The Rochester office of Empire Justice Center is so proud to have a team walking this year.  This major event by Alternatives for Battered Women is their kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The Walk raises funds to support their work with victims of domestic violence, as well as awareness of the topic. “Walk a Mile” was founded by a man, and stands as a call to action for all men to stop violence against women-and all victims.  The Walk is an international event, and for over a decade has had tens of thousands of participants and raised millions of dollars for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, as well as education and prevention programs.  To learn more about the local event, click here.  For more information on the history and mission of the Walk, click here.

 

Throughout the year, Empire Justice Center works hard to address domestic violence issues from a variety of angles.  From providing training and support to domestic violence organizations, legal advocates, and others to advocating for change to both legislation and public policy, we strive toward the goal of making the lives of victims of domestic violence, and all New Yorkers, better.  At the Walk, we’ll do this good work in stilettos—or sneakers!

 

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that is intentionally used by the abusive person to gain or maintain power and control over their intimate partner.  Coercive tactics can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and economic abuse or threats.  Abusive conduct injures, humiliates, frightens, isolates, threatens, intimidates or manipulates its intended target. Where there are children in a home infected by domestic violence, they may also suffer consequences as witnesses or direct victims of abuse.  Domestic violence can happen in new, dating relationships, as well occur over time in more long-term partnerships without regard to gender, sexual orientation, age, race, faith community, and socio-economic status.  To learn more about domestic violence, visit the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.      

 

To learn how to create a local Walk a Mile team of your own, click here.  Please join Empire Justice Center in our support of this most worthy of causes--whether you do it with your feet or your pocketbook!  We also encourage everyone to participate in or host a domestic violence awareness event in their community in the month of October.  Together we can stop abuse.  



Tags: Empire Justice | Domestic Violence | Alternatives for Battered Women





A Peek at a New Resource for Domestic Violence Victims who are Limited English Proficient


A Peek at a New Resource for Domestic Violence Victims who are Limited English Proficient

 

Imagine for a moment that you are the victim of domestic violence and are enduring the ongoing physical and emotional violence of your abusive intimate partner.  Now, imagine that during a particularly dangerous attack, you call 911 so that the police will come and help you and your children.  The police arrive, but you are unable to communicate with them because you are a non-citizen and English is not your primary language.  Your abuser, on the other hand, speaks English well and, instead of talking to you, the police only interview your abuser because they don’t call for  an interpreter.   As a result, you have no way of explaining what actually happened from your perspective.  Later, a domestic violence advocate advises you to seek an order of protection in family court.  You are not really sure what an order of protection is or how to get one.  Your experience with the police has alarmed you and you are not sure how to even begin taking the steps you need to take to get help without language assistance. 

 

This nightmarish scenario is the reality for many domestic violence victims in New York State who are Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning English is not their primary language and they have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English.  An estimated 2.4 million residents of New York are LEP.

 

Unfortunately, many LEP victims of domestic violence are unaware that both state and federal law require the courts, the police, and other service providers to offer language assistance at no charge when LEP individuals seek help.  In addition to language barriers, victims may be hesitant to access the civil or criminal justice system because they fear losing custody of their children or immigration consequences, such as deportation and removal from the United States.  Lack of familiarity with the legal system, as well as economic, cultural and religious barriers may also conspire to erect additional barriers for victims in their attempts to stop the abuse they suffer.

 

We are pleased to report that Empire Justice Center has produced a pamphlet designed to address this problem by clearly outlining the language access rights of limited English proficient victims in Family Court and how to access other services.  The pamphlet will be translated into the top 3 most common languages requested in New York’s courts. In an effort to reflect actual experiences with courts and police, as well as the real life fears and barriers to seeking help for this project,  Empire Justice Center surveyed various domestic violence and legal services providers across the state and used the information to inform the text.

 

The new resource, “Seeking Protection from Domestic Violence in New York’s Family Court: Information for Immigrant Victims with Limited English Proficiency is now available in English.  It is easily downloadable and will shortly be available in Spanish, Russian, Simplified Chinese— in addition to English.  For organizations that would like to order copies of this pamphlet in bulk, they will also be able to do so through our website.  Stay tuned!  In the next few days we will reveal the translated brochures!!!



Tags: Domestic Violence | Limited English Profiiciency