Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with the New York State Council on Women and Girls, launched a new task force May 20 to find solutions to the spike in domestic violence reports since COVID-19 “shelter-in-place” guidelines took effect. The task force aims to look beyond the scope of traditional services.
“While we have already taken aggressive actions to help some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers get the help they need and get away from their abusers, there is more that we can do to modernize the services we provide as we begin to enter a new normal,” Cuomo said. “I look forward to reviewing the innovative solutions that Melissa DeRosa and the entire task force come up with and putting together a new action plan to help stop this dangerous uptick in domestic violence.”
Due to pandemic-related social distancing guidelines, domestic violence reports have increased, as victims are unable to get away from their abusers. Compared to the same time in 2019, incident calls made to New York state police were up 15 percent in March, calls to the state’s domestic violence hotline were up 30 percent in April, and intimate partner victimizations saw a 12 percent increase in the first quarter, reported by large police departments outside of New York City.
Since PAUSE orders went into effect the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence has been actively placing information across social media accounts of public utilities or tax/finance — places it would not typically be available — along with flyers for hotline numbers in grocery stores, pharmacies, and home repair locations. When numbers began to increase in April, the state launched a text message confidential service directing victims toward help.
“During these unprecedented times, New York has led the way in providing survivors of domestic violence access to the critical services they need to get help,” said DeRosa, who is also the New York State Council on Women and Girls’ chair. “Unfortunately, the reality is that we are still seeing an increase in the number of reported cases of domestic violence across New York as this pandemic continues — we need to do more to help women who are stuck in dangerous situations. I am proud to be working with this diverse task force to develop recommendations for the governor so we can creatively address domestic violence.”
The domestic violence task force will present recommendations to Cuomo by Thursday, May 28, upon which the governor will make a final policy decision.
Additional task force personnel will be prominent members, experts, and founders from domestic violence organizations, such as Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network; Ruth Glenn, president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Peg Hacskaylo, founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Safe Housing; Joe Torre, co-founder and chairman of The Safe at Home Foundation; Joan Meier, director of the National Family Violence Law Center at George Washington University; and Karol Mason, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
New Yorkers in crisis can call 1-800-942-6906, text 844-997-2121, or chat with a professional form the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence on the confidential website. Services will be staffed by experts 24/7.