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Empire Justice Urges Governor Cuomo to Sign Bill Providing Critical Economic Protections to DV Victims

December 10, 2013


Governor Andrew Cuomo
Executive Chamber
State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

RE:  A.7400 (Weinstein)/S.5821 (Robach)

Dear Governor Cuomo,
Despite many domestic violence victims’ needs for immediate safety and freedom from physical violence, long-term safety and security often cannot be achieved without similar relief from economic and financial abuse.  A.7400/S.5821 seeks to fill this gap by providing victims of intimate partner violence with relief from some forms of economic abuse.  
Perpetrators of intimate partner violence commonly engage in a variety of economic abuse tactics specifically intended to intimidate, control, isolate and foster dependence in their victims.  Such tactics significantly increase the victim’s risk of housing insecurity or homelessness, poor employment or education history, food insecurity and bad credit.  The long-standing impact of economic abuse can impair both the victim and the victim’s children, as well as increase their dependence upon government-funded benefits such as unemployment insurance, public assistance, and public and subsidized housing. It can take years to undo or recover from the intentional infliction of economic harm or ruined credit caused by domestic abuse.  Long after injuries have healed, identity and monetary theft, debt and ruined credit may haunt these families by impacting the victim’s ability to get a mortgage, finance a vehicle, secure an apartment or obtain employment where credit checks are required.
New York has already undertaken several important legislative measures designed to provide victims with several economic justice safety nets, such as the Family Violence Option for public assistance applicants and recipients, employment discrimination protections, unemployment insurance benefits, early lease termination protections and free credit report security freezes.  While these economic justice measures are responsive, they fail to target and address the conduct that may have necessitated such protection.    

Enumerated family offenses currently address many of the types of physical and sexual abuse inflicted by batterers.  However, this same framework has yet to adequately respond to harmful economic abuse and control.  By enhancing the list of enumerated family offenses with the crimes of identity theft, larceny and coercion, this bill specifically recognizes these existing crimes as economic abuse and provides such victims with relief including: access to Family Court family offense proceedings, a civil or criminal family offense order of protection, restitution and mandatory arrest.  Critically, this bill also gives courts the explicit ability to order the return of critical “identification documents” which the victim may need access to or the abuser may be wrongfully retaining, such as a birth certificate, passport, benefits card and immigration documents.

Not insignificantly, this bill was passed unanimously in both the Senate and the Assembly indicating tremendous statewide support.  Empire Justice Center applauds this bill and without reservation, respectfully encourages the Governor to sign it into law.  

For more information, please contact:

Amy Schwartz-Wallace

Empire Justice Center
Telesca Center for Justice
One West Main Street, Suite 200
Rochester, NY  14614 

(585) 454-4060
(585) 454-2518

Kristin Brown

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 

(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852