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Mayor de Blasio Launches Domestic Violence Task Force To Hold Abusers Accountable And Provide Pathways To Safety For Survivors

November 18, 2016

Homicide rate in NYC has dropped 82 percent in last 25 years, while domestic violence homicides have remained stagnant

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today launched the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force, a 150-day sprint to develop a comprehensive citywide strategy to reduce domestic violence by intervening as early as possible, enhancing pathways to safety for survivors and ensuring swift, effective and lasting enforcement to hold abusers accountable. The Task Force, consisting of experts from inside and outside government as well as survivors, is charged with developing durable solutions to a problem that persists nationwide.   

“Violent crime in New York City continues to drop, but domestic violence unacceptably persists,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We must do everything we can to ensure that New York City is not just safer overall, but safer for everyone, everywhere, at all times. We know a lot about precision policing, and need to bring those tools to bear here with urgency. But we cannot just police our way out of this. The Task Force is unique in its focus on bringing law enforcement and social services together to look with fresh eyes at how we can both hold abusers accountable and ensure that we are providing smart and effective pathways to safety for survivors.”

“Domestic violence exists in every community, in every neighborhood, in every borough. The physical and/or emotional violence may be the first of many traumas suffered by family members. Too often people end up fleeing their homes, their neighborhoods, their friends, their schools and even their paychecks as they try to stay safe,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, co-Chair of the Commission on Gender Equity. “We’re not going to accept that any more in New York City. We are already taking steps to protect survivors' homes and paychecks, and to hold abusers accountable. Now, we’re going to focus the full force of City government to prevent domestic violence and also make sure survivors get the wraparound services that they need. With all of us working together, we can find new approaches for keeping our families safe.”

To reduce the frequency and severity of abuse, the Domestic Violence Task Force will develop a concrete plan to enhance law enforcement efforts to hold abusers accountable through the use of precision policing and prosecution strategies that have helped to drive down other forms of violent crime. Additionally, the Task Force will conduct an in-depth review of current City programs and investments, and develop a strategy to enhance the delivery of social services to ensure pathways to safety and support for families who have been victimized.

Co-chaired by First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, the work of the Task Force will be directed by Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer and Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Cecile Noel.
“We remain committed to using precision policing to reduce domestic violence as we have used it to address other crime,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “We take domestic violence seriously and will continue working within the department and across this city to prevent these types of crimes.”

Domestic violence, both in New York City and nationally, is a challenging and complex societal problem that is yet to be solved. Domestic violence often occurs behind closed doors, and victims face many barriers in coming forward to friends, family or to law enforcement, which complicates service provision as well as law enforcement’s investigation and evidence gathering. Domestic violence can happen in the context of familial or intimate partner relationships, threatening not only physical safety but housing, financial security, and other family members. Preventing and reducing domestic violence therefore requires a coordinated response that includes both criminal justice and social service intervention. The Task Force is explicitly charged with increasing coordination between social services and law enforcement to ensure a comprehensive response that will both better apprehend abusers as well as ensure support for survivors.

The Task Force will bring together experts from inside and outside of government, as well as survivors, to ensure resources are invested effectively to intervene early and reduce domestic violence-related fatalities. At the end of 150 days, the City will announce a comprehensive, citywide strategy to reduce domestic violence. Specifically, the Task Force will be charged with identifying effective strategies to advance four goals:

  1. Prevent violence and abusive behavior before it begins. Abuse can be cyclical: for example, 20 to 40 percent of chronically violent adolescents have been exposed to extreme parental conflict. The Task Force is charged with identifying ways to intervene with young people – both those who have been exposed to abuse and those who have not – to develop healthy relationship dynamics before abuse begins.
  2. Increase early reporting by survivors. Currently, experts think only 50 percent of domestic violence is reported to police, which makes early intervention difficult. The Task Force is charged with increasing survivors’ comfort with and willingness to report as soon as signs of abuse begin.
  3. Decrease dismissal rates and increase conviction rates in domestic violence prosecutions. Four out of five boroughs had dismissal rates over 53 percent and conviction rates under 33 percent in 2015. The Task Force is charged with developing strategies that make it easy and safe for survivors to partner with law enforcement and supporting police and prosecutors in building the strongest cases possible.
  4. Create strategies for long-term violence reduction and innovative practices to hold offenders accountable. Almost 60 percent of abusers are re-arrested for domestic violence offenses over a 5-year period. The Task Force is charged with preventing abusers from repeating abuse.

New York City currently has in place multiple programs and services to support survivors, including shelter programs, training programs for staff, educational and preventive programs for youth, and extensive case management services at the Family Justice Centers through a network of on-site providers in each borough. These services were recently expanded to include on-site housing legal assistance. In addition, the recent introduction of the Paid Safe Leave legislation will provide avenues to ensure protections for domestic violence survivors in the workplace.

The Task Force will connect these already robust supports for survivors to effective strategies that focus on holding abusers accountable and reducing violence and abusive behavior. This enhanced coordination between social services and law enforcement will increase survivor supports and allow the City to reduce a significant driver of the remaining violent crime in New York City. 

“Under the leadership of Mayor de Blasio, New York City has fostered innovative and groundbreaking strategies to end domestic violence,” said Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel. “From completing the vision of having a Family Justice Center in every borough, to providing mental health services and expanding employment and housing protections to survivors, New York City has created one of the most comprehensive networks of resources in the world. And now, by creating the Domestic Violence Task Force, Mayor de Blasio has once again proven his commitment to making our city a place where everyone can feel safe and respected in their relationships. I am grateful to First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who have been allies and advocates for survivors of domestic violence from the start; and I look forward to working with Liz Glazer and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice as we assess our strategies to enhance our services to survivors and prevent domestic violence before it happens.”

Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer said, “In a city in which violent crime has fallen by 75 percent in 20 years, domestic violence remains a challenge, accounting for 40 percent of citywide assaults and 20 percent of homicides. Because it happens behind closed doors, and affects not only physical security but housing stability and child care, we must knit together both sharp crime fighting and evidence-based interventions. This ambidextrous approach offers the greatest promise of interrupting cycles of violence, implementing smart prevention and ensuring that abusers are held accountable. The Domestic Violence Task Force brings urgent attention to this problem, and gives us the opportunity to develop durable solutions to a problem that persists both here and across the country.”

“Every woman and girl in New York City deserves healthy and safe relationships,” said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity. “Domestic violence is on the rise and that is not acceptable to the de Blasio Administration. I applaud First Lady Chirlane McCray and Police Commissioner O’Neill for co-chairing the Domestic Violence Task Force. With government on the side of women, we will never normalize a culture of violence. I look forward to working with the members of the task force to create effective strategies, policies and programs to end domestic violence.”  

“The Human Resources Administration oversees the largest network of domestic violence services in the country, including shelters and many other services," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “I am proud to be joining forces with my colleagues in this initiative to find solutions and implement programs to assist New Yorkers who have experienced the scourge of domestic violence in their journey to stability and safety.”

“Working with youth and their families through DYCD’s funded programs, we are all too familiar with the devastating effects of domestic violence on a child’s healthy development and ability to succeed,” said Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong. “I look forward to serving with the Mayor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence to help ensure that young people and other New Yorkers have access to the services and protections that keep them safe.”

“The Department of Probation enthusiastically supports the work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence and an increased focus on the intersection of criminal justice and social service responses to create lasting solutions and improved outcomes for those affected by domestic violence,” said Probation Commissioner Ana M. Bermudez.

“This Task Force is critical to the development of long term sustainable solutions to not only combat domestic violence, but also to educate our youth so that they can recognize the signs of abusive behavior and work with us to end it. The Department of Administrative Services is ready to provide  whatever assistance is needed in  order for the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force to develop a citywide strategy to reduce domestic violence,” said DCAS Commissioner Lisette Camilo.

“Domestic violence is unfortunately a pervasive issue that affects countless New York City children and families,” said Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Mayor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence to continue to examine ways to prevent intimate partner violence and better support victims and survivors of domestic violence.”

Department of Finance Sheriff Joe Fucito said, “The DOF Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to connecting our court-enforcement and law-enforcement authority to the City’s larger strategic plan during all phases of domestic violence intervention.”

Borough President Eric Adams said, "Domestic violence has touched the lives of far too many New Yorkers – including my own. The persistence of domestic violence in our city is a top-level concern that endangers thousands of our neighbors, innocent children and families whose health and well-being are at stake. I am committed to working with the de Blasio administration, law enforcement, social service providers, and our community of survivors to develop a plan that prioritizes accountability and prevention.”

“Domestic violence is on the rise in our borough and is unfortunately a reality that many local families deal with,” said Borough President Jimmy Oddo. “I am pleased to see the administration working with law enforcement to help fight this problem. While domestic violence is an issue we must combat on many fronts, this new strategy will do more to take some of the burden off of domestic violence survivors and prevent abuse from reoccurring.”

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said, “Queens has the highest domestic violence conviction rate and the lowest dismissal rate in the City of New York, thanks to the dedication of organizations and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. We have the most diverse support services for survivors in the City – including the Queens Family Justice Center – and have been committed to holding abusers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.  I laud the launch of the Mayor’s Task Force, which is indicative of his staunch commitment to combatting domestic violence.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “Mayor de Blasio’s NYC Domestic Violence Task Force is another vital component in our mission to drive down these crimes and assist survivors. He was instrumental in helping my Office establish the City’s first Domestic Violence Complaint Room, which pairs criminal justice with social services through the Mayor’s Family Justice Center, to result in effective prosecution and seamless support for victims. I look forward to working with the Task Force to develop a citywide strategy to eradicate domestic violence.”

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “Since becoming district attorney 25 years ago it has been a top priority of my office to increase conviction rates, lower dismissal rates and hold batterers accountable on these very important domestic violence cases.  I applaud the Mayor’s initiative to launch a task force to hold abusers accountable and provide safer pathways for domestic violence survivors.  We are extremely proud of the national reputation of our Domestic Violence Bureau which trains police and prosecutors from around the country and will be pleased to assist the task force in every way possible.”

Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said, “We can all agree that no one should have to live in fear in their own home. Yet, domestic violence is one of the most serious issues facing the people of Staten Island and the City. With the majority of murders committed in this borough being driven by domestic violence and a dramatic increase in victims over the last five years, there remains a tremendous need for increased resources and dedicated services for this effort. I am proud that my office will join this taskforce, whose launch illustrates a recognition of this problem and a commitment by the Mayor and our partners around the city to addressing this issue. And, combined with the newly opened Staten Island Family Justice Center and recent efforts undertaken within my office, I am hopeful that we can make strides toward ending the cycle of abuse and empowering victims so that they do not have to suffer in silence.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said: “We are proud to have Executive Assistant District Attorney Audrey Moore, Chief of our Special Victims Bureau, join the Mayor’s Task Force. A comprehensive strategy to combat domestic violence must be grounded in cross-sector collaboration, as outlined in my Office’s Domestic Violence Initiative report. I thank Mayor de Blasio for his leadership and commitment to tackling this pervasive public safety crisis.”

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “Our office investigates and prosecutes more than 10,000 cases of intimate partner violence a year. We work hard to protect these vulnerable victims and welcome the development of more tools to prevent fatalities and to help get justice. We look forward to working with the Domestic Violence Task Force and reviewing its recommendations.”

"Continuing to focus on ways to end domestic and intimate partner violence, and provide needed support, is a critical goal," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. "As a long-time advocate in the Senate for enhanced DV/IPV protections, I thank the City, First Lady McCray, NYPD, my colleagues, and advocates for continuing to work towards needed solutions with this task force."

State Senator Jose Serrano said, "The silent epidemic of domestic violence has injured families and individuals in our community for far too long. One of the more proven ways to combat domestic violence is through public awareness and open discussion, and I applaud Mayor de Blasio for continuing to do just that. The creation of this Domestic Violence Task Force will help ensure that we are all working together to create a strong plan that will protect victims while bringing abusers to justice."

State Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “I welcome Mayor de Blasio’s action to create this Domestic Violence Task Force. The 150 day timeline, the four goals of prevention, early reporting, justice system review, and long-term strategies, and the high level leadership of First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, all indicate the City is taking domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves. I look forward to taking forward the Task Force’s recommendations and the subsequent citywide strategy to reduce domestic violence, and lending support at the state-level so all New Yorkers benefit from this comprehensive review.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said, "I'm extremely grateful to Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill for addressing the vexing problem of domestic violence homicides. For too long, these crimes have continued unabated, even while the rates of other homicides have decreased dramatically. With the attention of the new Mayor's Domestic Violence Task Force, hopefully we can save lives through early intervention, increased reporting and holding offenders accountable."

Assembly Member and Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz said, “Domestic violence prevention is critical. We’ve seen too many stories of families torn apart by this crisis. The Mayor’s plan is on target to address abuse behavior before it happens. Early detection can result in effective prevention. We can’t let repeat offenders get away with spousal and family abuse anymore."

“Despite all the on-going efforts by the City, domestic violence, with all its legal, social and psychological ramifications, still remains a frustrating critical issue for all too many victims – and sadly, a deadly one. I pledge my personal support in any way that I can to help to make this new City effort – bringing together a multi-agency task force to improve programs already in place and to find effective new ones – a success. Too much depends on it,” said Bronx Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda.

"I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio for convening the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force, as well as the First Lady Chirlane McCray, and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill," said Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, member of the Domestic Violence Advisory Council for New York State. "Recognizing that we have not seen a decline in the homicide rate as a result of domestic violence is alarming. I am happy to see that this task force will address this crime, which is often experienced in silence, with strategies for early intervention, safety, and accountability. Also, the fact that the voices of those directly impacted by this issue are being included is crucial. As a former victim of domestic violence, I commend this task force."

“Survivors of domestic violence should not have to choose between their personal safety and housing or financial security. By developing a comprehensive plan, we can provide hope for victims of domestic violence and help them leave a dangerous situation” said Assembly Member David Weprin. “I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio for forming the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force and taking a concrete step to reduce domestic violence.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Public Safety Committee said, “All too often, what begins as a minor incident quickly spirals out of control. Domestic violence is insidious and sadly all too common across the five boroughs. As Public Safety Chair, I commend Mayor de Blasio for launching this task force and devoting City time and resources to protecting survivors and ending the cycle of abuse. I look forward to reviewing the recommendations made by the task force and thank First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice’s Executive Director Elizabeth Glazer for their ongoing attention and leadership on this important issue.’

Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said, “I applaud the Mayor for his commitment to the safety of survivors of domestic violence, first with the introduction of Paid Safe Leave legislation and now with the launch of this task force. Developing a comprehensive, citywide strategy will ensure that we are combating domestic violence at every level and providing every resource available to those families who need it. This initiative not only has the potential to save lives but will build stronger families and a stronger city.”

“As overall violent crime and homicide continues to decrease, domestic violence remains a pervasive problem in our city. Domestic violence is particularly insidious, as too often assaults go unreported, assailants go unpunished and victims do not receive the help and services they need. Mayor de Blasio’s Domestic Violence Task Force represents crucial steps the City must take to develop better policing and prosecution strategies, as well as increased access to social services for victims,” said Council Member Rosenthal, co-chair of the Women’s Caucus.

“Congratulations on setting up the Mayoral Task Force on Domestic Violence under the leadership of First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill,” said Radhika Balakrishnan, Execuitve Director of Women’s Global Leadership and a Commission on Gender Equity Commissioner. “The issue of domestic violence is being taken seriously at a very high level and will provide the leadership needed to combat domestic violence in New York.”

“New York City has one of the strongest support networks for survivors of domestic violence of any major city in the country. But to truly reduce violence, we must also focus on abuse prevention, which includes holding perpetrators accountable,” said Honorable Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families. “We applaud Mayor de Blasio for creating the Domestic Violence Task Force to engage in this important strategic assessment, under the able leadership of First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. Last year, Sanctuary helped nearly 17,000 survivors on their paths from fear and abuse to safety and stability. Preventing even one person from ending up in our care would be a triumph of public policy.”

Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon said, “Safe Horizon vigorously applauds the de Blasio Administration for launching a Mayoral Task Force on Domestic Violence. In taking this step, Mayor de Blasio demonstrates his firm commitment to closely examining the factors that lead to domestic violence in neighborhoods across the city and to taking innovative steps to address these crimes and keep New Yorkers safe in their homes, their jobs and their communities. As the nation’s leading victim assistance organization and New York City’s largest provider of services to victims of crime and abuse, Safe Horizon commends Deputy Mayors Anthony Shorris and Herminia Palacio as well as Commissioner Cecile Noel from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and Director Liz Glazer from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for bringing key City agencies together in a focused and coordinated manner to send a powerful message that domestic violence cannot and will not be tolerated in New York.”
“The New York City Anti-Violence Project commends the Mayor’s Office for taking these important steps to increase resources for all domestic violence survivors citywide, and for ensuring that LGBTQ and HIV-affected domestic and intimate partner violence survivors are included in all conversations, resources and initiatives,” said Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

“Urban Resource Institute fully supports the creation of New York City’s new Domestic Violence Task Force, which will turn critical attention and resources to the tragically prevalent issue of domestic violence. We greatly appreciate the First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer and Cecile Noel, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Cecile Noel’s efforts, and in particular we are glad that the task force will be focusing on the prevention of domestic violence – not just the treatment and prosecution after incidents occur. The task force’s holistic, inclusive approach to taking on this issue will be a big step forward in the fight against domestic violence,” said Nathaniel M. Fields, CEO of the Urban Resource Institute.

"The NYC Domestic Violence Task Force is an important effort to combat one of the most persistent and challenging problems in our society with a comprehensive response: the delivery of both justice and supportive services. We commend Mayor de Blasio for leading this initiative that will improve the way our justice system and social services work together to meet the needs of all survivors, and ultimately, reduce the number of families that are affected by domestic violence,” said Nicholas Turner, President of the Vera Institute of Justice.

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