NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the release of an updated “Victims of Domestic Violence: Know Your Rights!” brochure to mark the 29th annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The purple brochure, the awareness campaign’s theme color, describes key legal protections and services available to victims of domestic violence, particularly in the areas of housing and employment, under New York law and the 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act. The updated brochure includes information about new protections stemming from New York State’s recently-enacted Women’s Equality Agenda. In 1989, the U.S. Congress designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
“We’ve made tremendous progress protecting victims of domestic violence through enhanced legal protections and enforcement actions. Yet this month, we must recognize that our work keeping New Yorkers safe from domestic violence is far from over,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We know that domestic violence victims are often some of the most vulnerable residents of our state. Our hope is that our enforcement actions, as well as our education and outreach efforts, will assist domestic violence victims to escape the violence they face at the hands of their abusers and assist them in building safe, productive lives.”
The Attorney General’s brochure includes guidance such as:
- Under New York State’s Human Rights Law, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against someone because that person is a victim of domestic violence.
- It is illegal for a landlord to refuse the federally subsidized housing vouchers of domestic violence victims.
- Too often, victims of domestic violence must temporarily or permanently relocate in order to seek safety. There are laws to protect those who leave their home to escape violence.
In addition, the pamphlet includes new protections as a result of The Women’s Equality Agenda, enacted in January. This new legislation protects victims of domestic violence from discrimination when they attempt to rent or lease housing, and provides them with an affirmative defense in eviction proceedings and a private right of action. It also creates a pilot program to allow domestic violence victims to seek temporary orders of protection electronically rather than having to appear in person.
The Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) robust enforcement actions have advanced the rights of Domestic Violence victims. The OAG continues to commit resources to eliminating unlawful discrimination against victims of domestic violence in housing. In June, the OAG investigated claims of discrimination in housing against domestic violence victims and reached settlements with two brokerage firms that engaged in discrimination against prospective tenants using Living In Communities III vouchers, rental vouchers specifically for domestic violence victims in New York City.
Last year, the OAG reached a settlement agreement with Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., a statewide retail chain, to strengthen protections for its 1,200 New York employees against discrimination based on domestic violence victim status in the workplace. Under this agreement, Bon-Ton agreed to modify its policies to acknowledge that domestic violence victims are a protected class under New York law, provide education and training to address discrimination against domestic violence victims to all employees in New York, and contributed $5,000 to the Erie County Sheriff’s Department’s Domestic Violence Unit.
The OAG also has language access agreements with police departments and hospitals, which help to facilitate access to these critical services by domestic violence victims who do not speak English or are limited English proficient. The Attorney General has worked to create and enhance the language access policies and practices of numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Yonkers Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, Nassau County Police Department, Middletown Police Department, Rochester Police Department, Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, and Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
In July, the office hosted a statewide roundtable with domestic violence organizations and advocates to learn of the most urgent issues affecting domestic violence victims and survivors to explore additional enforcement and outreach efforts.
Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are illegal. If you need immediate help, please call 911 first. To file complaints of discrimination faced by domestic violence victims and survivors, contact the Attorney General’s Office at 212-416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.