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Stavisky backs bills to protect victims of domestic violence

A legislative package drafted in part by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) aimed at strengthening domestic violence laws and establishing protections for victims passed the Senate last week.

Stavisky wrote one of the laws in the package, which would increase penalties for witness tampering and repeat´╗┐ offenders of orders of protection. She introduced the bill in response to the January murder of Flushing resident Qian Wu, who police said was allegedly´╗┐ murdered by a man against whom she had repeatedly gotten orders of protection.

“In January, one of my constituents was killed by a man who stalked and harassed her for years,” Stavisky said. “She obtained orders of protection against him, and if these laws had been in place at the time she may have had more legal recourse and protection against him.”

Other impacts of the laws, if passed, would be to reform election law to prevent a domestic violence survivor’s identity from being accessible through a Freedom of Information Act´╗┐ request, to create an address confidentiality program, to prohibit housing and employment discrimination based on having been a domestic violence survivor and increased penalties for witness tampering.

Domestic violence is on the rise, according to statistics released by Stavisky’s office. Between 2007 and 2008, intimate partner homicides increased 25 percent statewide and 45 percent in counties outside New York City, and the 31 Domestic Violence Courts handled more than 31,000 cases in 2008, an increase of nearly 7,000 from 2007.

“The bills in this package are intended to provide a sense of security and support for survivors of domestic violence by allowing them to preserve their identity and escape their abuser,” Stavisky said.

The state Assembly has passed some of the package’s proposals, which now await Gov. David Paterson’s signature, according to a Stavisky spokesman, while other pieces of the package have yet to be acted upon by the Assembly.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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