Updated 01/04/2013 06:29 PM
Protecting domestic abuse victims in the new year
It will never be easy for victims of domestic abuse to protect themselves from their attacker, but those victims do have new legislation on their side heading into 2013. Our Melissa Kakareka takes a look at what protections the new year is bringing for those affected by abuse.
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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- It's estimated that about one in four women experience some type of domestic abuse during their lifetime.
"When you look at those kinds of numbers, you really start to understand. You start to get a sense of what's the picture. It's a real problem and a real human rights issue," said SOS Shelter Executive Director Rebecca Allerton.
But the new year can mean new protections for many victims in New York, as more and more pieces of the state's domestic violence, signed into law last October, take effect.
Beginning with the new calendar year, victims of abuse can now change the address where their health care insurance is sent.
"We want to give victims power back. One of the easy ways we can do that now is to say your business doesn't have to go to your abuser. You can have a different address put on those things to increase confidentiality and keep you safer," said Crime Victims Assistance Center Executive Director Raini Baudendistel.
The legislation strengthens charges that can be brought against abusers. The misdemeanor "aggravated harassment in the second degree" hit the books at the end of December to help charge abusers who cause physical injury to a person. A new "aggravated family offense" felony will be added to the list later this month. It ensures that abusers who repeatedly commit misdemeanor offenses are prosecuted as felons.
"It really holds people more accountable in a criminal court if they have committed domestic violence crimes in the past," said Allerton.
While all of the provisions in the bill are meant to aid victims in the future, advocates say it will take more than just laws to help solve the problem.
"I think we've got a lot work left to do in terms of our level of tolerance in how people treat each other and thats what we need to focus on," said Baudendistel.
There is a state hotline you can call for help and more information. Visit http://www.opdv.ny.gov/ to learn more.