Last month was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we cannot let the passing of a few days allow us to lose our focus on this problem that continues to plague our society.
As an attorney and officer of the court with a long-time practice in Jackson Heights, many women have come to my office seeking relief and protection from abusive husbands or boyfriends. Domestic violence is not something that just happens to other people in other communities. It is a reality that must be confronted here in Queens and throughout civilized society.
In New York City, the domestic homicide rate increased by 2.7 percent from 2007-08 and domestic homicides account for 14.3 percent of all homicides in our city.
The victims of domestic violence are not just the women trapped in abusive or violent relationships, but also the children suffering in these households, growing up while bearing witness to physical and psychological violence. The abhorrent examples set may well infect another generation if this cycle of violence is not stopped.
It is therefore all the more disturbing when elected officials commit acts of violence against the women in their lives. Not only are they breaking the law and violating the public trust, but they are setting a horrid example for our young people. They have proven they are unfit to hold public office, as they are unable to abide by the law they have sworn to uphold.
Gone are the days when a “man’s home is his castle” and he could do as he pleased to his significant other. Women in abusive relationships are not beyond the reach of the law’s protections. There are legal remedies and recourses available to them, such as orders of protection and restraining orders. In 2009, no woman should put up with abuse, physical or otherwise, at the hands of a husband or boyfriend.
Legislation recently introduced in Albany, which requires insurance companies to provide domestic violence victims the option of registering an alternative address and contact information, will make it harder for abusers to track down their victims through insurance claims when they see their doctor. This and similar efforts are vitally important to ensuring that the women of New York are better protected from the scourge of domestic violence.
In the coming weeks and months, I will be advocating for strengthening protections and support for the victims of domestic violence. We will continue to work to ensure that woman who feel they are trapped in these unhealthy relationships know they have alternatives and that there are those who will fight for them and their rights.
Richard La Salle