STILLWATER — Officials at both the state and local levels continue to support survivors of domestic violence while advocating for more reforms and funding.
The month of October is domestic violence awareness month, a time where many organizations remind people of the ongoing need to end domestic violence.
In 2021, there was an 18% increase in domestic violence orders of protection issued in the state compared to 2020, according to a press release from Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated domestic violence problems, with calls to the New York State hotline increasing by nearly 34% from the onset of the public health crisis,” states the release.
Hochul signed legislation Tuesday to provide survivors of domestic violence more protections.
According to the release, the new laws:
- Allow authorities to sieze firearms from people who are the subject of a protective order if a judge finds that their keeping the weapon is dangerous
- Require criminal or family court judges to ask about a defendant’s gun ownership if they have an order of protection agains them
- Enable sexual assault survivors to apply to have their voter registration information sealed from the public
- Expand the existing requirement of utility companies to allow domestic violence survivors to get out of shared contracts without incurring financial penalties and
- Require health insurance companies to allow domestic violence survivors to provide alternative contact information in order to access details about their claims and benefits without their abuser gaining access to them
“Today’s legislation will enhance safety for all survivors, because in domestic and sexual violence situations, safety matters above all else,” said Kelli Owens, the executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. “Whether we’re talking about gun safety, privacy rights, or financial abuse, we want New Yorkers to know that they have options, resources, and protections. I am honored to serve Gov. Hochul, who has always been a true advocate for survivors.”
On Monday, the Stillwater Police Department donated over 100 phones to various advocacy groups to help domestic violence survivors. Since the program was started by now-retired Police Chief Ray Cordani 19 years ago, the department has donated over 6,600 cell phones.
”I truly believe they do become lifelines for victims of domestic violence,” he said. Twenty people a day, over 10 million people a year, become victims of domestic abuse, he said. Cordani said domestic violence isn’t just limited to people in the home — everyone is impacted by domestic violence. He used an example of an abuser showing up at a victim’s workplace to harass them or even become violent. “Who are the coworkers?” he said. “That’s us. That’s our family, that’s our friends, our neighbors. Please don’t tell me that it’s a private matter. It’s very much a public matter.”
Cordani said that the department doesn’t get as many cellphones as it used to because many companies offer people the ability to trade in their phone or sell it for money. People can drop off their old phones at DeCrescente Distributing Company in Mechanicville, Toyota of Clifton Park, Ballston Spa National Bank branches, the Mechanicville Community Center, the Stillwater Community Center, Stillwater Town Hall or the Stillwater Police Department.
Cordani and the politicians attending Monday’s event used the conference as a time to also call for changes to the bail reform laws that allow judges to have more discretion regarding bail. He said if a defendant is out awaiting his case and violates an order of protection, he should be held in jail on remand.
The YWCA of Northeastern New York will hold its annual Take Back the Night March Thursday at 44 Washington Ave., Schenectady, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The march will “center and uplift the fearless movers, innovative shakers, passionate trailblazers, and the bold inspirations in our community who are working tirelessly to organize voices, disrupt systems, and eliminate barriers around the issue of domestic violence to ensure our community is a safe and supportive space for survivors,” states the YWCA’s website.
Owens and Schenectady City Councilmember Doreen Ditoro will be speakers at the event.
People are also being asked to wear purple — the symbolic color of domestic violence awareness — on Thursday. People can post pictures of themselves wearing purple and tag the YWCA on Instagram at @ywca_neny or on Facebook at YWCA NorthEastern NY.
The organization will also host a fundraising event at Frog Alley from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21. All the money raised will go to supporting survivors.