Testimony before the NYC Council Committee on Civil Service & Labor regarding: Safe leave for victims of family offense matters, sexual offenses and stalking and their family members

June 12, 2017

Chair Miller, Council Members, and staff, good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to address the Council on Intro 1313, Safe Leave for Victims of Family Offenses, Sexual Offenses and Stalking.  My name is Maura McCarthy, and I am as Staff Attorney with the Matrimonial and Family Law Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG).  NYLAG is a nonprofit law office dedicated to providing free legal services in civil legal matters to low-income New Yorkers.  The Matrimonial and Family Law Unit prioritizes survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Additionally, survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking seek services at NYLAG for other civil matters, very often correlating to their status as survivors (for example, transferring housing or HRA benefits, foreclosure defense, and consumer protection issues).  NYLAG strongly supports the Safe Leave Bill.

We are all aware that domestic violence and similar offenses have an enormous economic impact, not only on survivors but also on society as a whole.  Social science research supports that proposition.   It is reported that as many as 27% of survivors have reported a job loss as a direct result of domestic violence; one study found that 91% of survivors had resigned or lost a job in the last year as a direct result of violence at home.[1] It is estimated that survivors lose a total of 8.0 million days of paid work each year.[2]  The economic impact of domestic violence on society as a whole, is staggering, with estimated costs exceeding $8.3 billion per year.[3]  New York City alone fields 800 domestic violence related calls to NYPD each day.

Anecdotally, as lawyers for domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking survivors, we can attest to the economic damage that domestic violence causes survivors and their families.  We have seen firsthand, that survivors often choose to withdraw from proceedings requesting orders of protection due to fears of job loss related to repeated court appearances.  We have seen survivors enter into settlement agreements simply because they can no longer suffer the economic toll of missed work, missed wages, and the inability to obtain stable employment as a result of endless court dates.  We have seen survivors refuse to cooperate with criminal investigations and prosecutions because they fear that such proceedings will cause them to miss work, and ultimately lose their jobs.  We have seen survivors have to choose between taking time to seek safe shelter and taking time to seek an order of protection.

This bill protects such survivors by allowing them to take the time they need to secure safe housing, orders of protection, counseling and other services without fear of job or wage loss.  Additionally, this bill destigmatizes survivors by acknowledging that large portions of the population are impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.  As such, NYLAG strongly supports this bill and urges City Council to pass 1313.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  NYLAG looks forward to continuing its strong partnership with the City Council to ensure the fair and just treatment of survivors of domestic violence.

Respectfully submitted,

New York Legal Assistance Group

[1]  Swanberg, J.E., Logan, T.K., & Macke, C. (2006). The consequences of partner violence on employment and the workplace. In Kelloway, E.K., Barling, J., & Hurrell, Jr., J.J. (Eds.) Handbook of Workplace Violence. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

[2] How employment helps female victims of intimate partner violence: A qualitative study. Rothman, Emily F.; Hathaway, Jeanne; Stidsen, Andrea; de Vries, Heather F. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol 12(2), Apr 2007, 136-143.

[3]  Id.