Three New York legislators want the state to register domestic violence offenders just as sex crime offenders are publicly listed.
State Sen. Eric Adams, Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries announced the proposed law. It would require anyone convicted of domestic violence to be listed in a Domestic Violence Offender Database.
The justification for the law is listed as, "Many people get into relationships without knowing those they are dating's full history. This type of situation is especially true of those who get involved domestic violence offenders. In addition there seems to be a pattern of those who are victims of domestic violence getting involved with people who have this history. This registry would at least list those offenders with a repeat history of violence. It would also act as an aide to survivors of domestic violence to know if their offender has moved into their districts."
It would require those convicted of domestic violence to register their address and notify law enforcement officials of any change in address. It would also implement a special telephone number where members of the public could call and inquire whether a person in on the list.
The law was proposed after Sarah Coit, 23, was fatally stabbed and nearly decapitated last week during a domestic dispute with her boyfriend in their New York City apartment. Authorities say the suspect in Coit's death, Raul Barrera, has been linked to several violent incidents in the past. He pleaded guilty to smashing a man in the face with a bottle last year.
Barrera is charged with second degree murder in his girlfriend's death after turning himself into police.
However, not everyone thinks the bill is a good idea. The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence released a statement listing concerns the agency has about the plan.
The statement says, "NYSCADV is concerned that a domestic violence offender registry cannot achieve the desired and intended outcome of increasing victim safety and offender accountability. Realistically, it is likely that a domestic violence offender registry created in any format would not achieve these goals and could possibly have harmful, unintended consequences for victims and their families."
The statement says the registry is premised, in part, on the assumption that if victims knew about a partner's history, they would leave. However, leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous, and it should be done thoughtfully and with well-constructed safety plans.
It also says the posting of an offender's name could put the victim in more danger, if that offender blames the victim. The database could also provide a false sense of security if a partner's name is not on it.
NYSCADV is also concerned about victim privacy. "Notifying the public about the identity of domestic violence offenders will most likely mean that the domestic violence victim by the intimate nature of the relationship to the offender-cannot remain anonymous," the statement said.
Colleen O'Brien from Vera House agrees with some of those concerns.
"Registering when it's about domestic violence really ties that person to the victim, and that victim is not saying, 'Hey, I want everybody to know who I am,'" says O'Brien. "Although it may prevent some things, we think the harm might be a little bit more than the benefit."
Stephanie Piston, from the Love is Not Abuse Coalition, says a registry may be able to work, but it has to have the proper protocol in place to protect victims.
Piston says domestic abuse is a much bigger problem than many people realize. She says there are red flags that people can look out for to find out if they're a victim. Abusers often want to control their victims, so the signs may be something as simple as controlling what a partner wears. People should also keep an eye out for emotional abuse, like yelling or name-calling.
On a related note, just last week we brought you the story of a Geneva woman's push for the state to create a violent felony offenders registry. Click here to read that story .
Do you think this new law is a good idea? Is this something you would check before starting a relationship? Leave your comments below!
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