ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Gov. Cuomo announced a comprehensive package of initiatives to combat domestic violence and gender-based violence as part of the 2021 State of the State.

The package includes a proposal allowing courts to require abusers to pay for damages to the housing unit, moving expenses, and other housing costs related to domestic violence. Additionally, there is a proposal to require the Office of Court Administration report domestic violence felony statistics to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services monthly.  

“One of the most horrific results of this pandemic has been the stark rise in cases of domestic and gender-based violence,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York has long been a national leader in the fight to end these despicable acts and we will continue to blaze the path forward toward a safer future for all. Not only are we fighting to ensure abusers are forced to pay for the damage they create and strengthening our laws to keep guns out of their hands, but we are also reimagining the way government supports survivors and gets them the resources they need to move on with their lives.”

As part of the package, the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence will be transformed into the Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. This newly designed office will be tasked with addressing the intersection of the many forms of intimate partner violence, including domestic violence and sexual violence, in a survivor-centered and comprehensive manner.

Currently, in order to disqualify individuals found guilty of serious misdemeanors from obtaining a New York gun license, they must be found to have committed the crime against someone with whom they were in a domestic relationship after a separate hearing.

Many disqualifying domestic violence misdemeanors are not “labeled” as such because the process to label state-disqualifying domestic violence misdemeanors is cumbersome. While New York took a step towards closing this loophole in 2020 by ensuring that court clerks report these disqualifying convictions in a timely manner, some convicted of serious misdemeanors may still be able to purchase a gun if this multi-step process is not followed.

As a result, some convicted of serious misdemeanors have still been allowed to purchase a gun. Gov. Cuomo proposes the creation of a domestic violence misdemeanor label to close the domestic violence gun-purchasing loophole. In addition, the Governor will propose legislation to require the Office of Court Administration report domestic violence felony statistics to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services monthly to ensure that domestic violence incidents are able to be counted.

Finally, by creating the Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, Governor Cuomo is building a “permanent and unified hub” of policy and state-of-the-art programming for New Yorkers facing gender-based violence, bringing together multiple efforts to address gender-based violence throughout state government. The Office will encourage collaboration among agencies and service providers, eliminate redundant processes, cut red tape, and permanently install the fight for gender equality and justice for survivors as a pillar of New York state government.

Among the programs already underway are a new 24/7 text and chatline for those experiencing domestic and sexual violence, a housing navigator pilot to enhance housing options for survivors, the creation of a statewide data collection system, new training and resources for those working with incarcerated populations and immigrants, a listening tour to speak directly with survivors regarding their needs, and enhanced communication regarding shelter availability.