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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
ALBANY, Oct. 14 -- Consider this finding I recently read as part of a new national study: 60% of Americans know a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
That’s just one in a series of startling – and heartbreaking – findings from a study released in late September as part of the lead up to Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, which the nation has observed since 1987. Other study findings, part of a newly launched nationwide public awareness campaign NO MORE (nomore.org), include that:
> three out of four (73%) parents with children under the age of 18 have not had a conversation about domestic violence or sexual assault with their children;
> even though 75% of Americans say that they would step in and help a stranger being abused, the reality is most people do not help.
> among the 70% of women who experienced domestic violence and then told someone about it, more than half (58%) said that no one helped them.
But, according to the same study, 64% of Americans say if we talk more about domestic violence and sexual assault, it will make it easier to help someone.
The NO MORE campaign began earlier this year. It’s brought together a range of athletes, corporate leaders, celebrities and concerned advocates in a renewed effort to combat domestic violence and features the NO MORE symbol, the first unified branding symbol (like the pink breast cancer ribbon) highlighting this critical issue for families.
As a former assistant district attorney (ADA) in Manhattan and district attorney (DA) in Chemung County, I can tell you that domestic violence has long been and continues to be one of law enforcement’s most difficult challenges. The same goes for governmental efforts to battle against it – to take any and all of the steps we can to prevent it, and to do anything and everything we can to protect victims and help them reclaim their lives.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Statistics have shown that there are more than 400,000 domestic violence incidents in New York State each year. In 2008 alone, more than 220,000 orders of protection were granted in New York State.
So we try to strengthen our laws. Last year I was grateful to help support the enactment of a landmark new law providing important new protections to the victims of this terrible and tragic crime, while also establishing stronger criminal penalties, including a new felony-level crime of Aggravated Family Offense, for those who commit domestic violence. This specific action was built on the fundamental responsibility to protect victims of domestic violence from unconscionable acts of harassment and violence. It gives law enforcement additional and important tools to combat and prosecute domestic violence. You can read more about last year’s new law on my website, omara.nysenate.gov (click on the “Domestic Violence” in the left-hand column of the home page).
In an effort to build on last year’s new domestic violence prevention law, the Senate this year acted on a nine-point Women’s Equality plan that took additional steps to, among other provisions, strengthen orders of protection and prevent housing discrimination against domestic violence victims.
New York is the only state in the nation which has designated an executive-level solely dedicated to fighting and preventing domestic violence, the State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV).
In declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo encouraged all New Yorkers to participate in the annual Shine the Light on Domestic Violence campaign, coordinated by the OPDV, by wearing purple on Wednesday, October 16th. You can read more about the Shine the Light campaign, which is ongoing throughout the month of October, on the OPDV website: http://www.opdv.ny.gov/
It’s also critical to highlight the following points of help:
1.) victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can seek help 24 hours a day by calling New York State’s toll-free hotline: 1-800-942-6906; and
2.) a number of statewide programs provide direct services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including counseling and emergency shelter for victims and their children. Information about these programs is available from the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.nyscadv.org) and the New York State Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov).
By toughening our laws and continuing to raise public awareness, we can better prevent -- and help protect the victims of -- domestic violence. And we can, and will, bring the perpetrators of this terrible crime to justice.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869