New York Domestic Violence Policy
Text taken from the NY Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
Legally, domestic violence is more complicated to define because there is no specific crime of "domestic violence" in New York State law. Whether it is a victim's husband or a stranger who assaulted her, the elements of the crime are the same. However, the way the offense is addressed by the courts is in fact, somewhat different, depending on the relationship of the victim to the abuser. Domestic violence is handled through the criminal courts and the Family Court as a "family offense." A family offense is defined as certain acts/crimes delineated in the Penal Law (such as harassment, menacing, assault, and stalking) committed by a family member (individuals who are married, related by blood or who have a child in common). Victims who meet this definition may go to criminal court to seek an order of protection and have the abuser prosecuted, or they may go to Family Court for an order of protection, services, and assistance with custody and child support. Individuals victimized by an intimate partner who does not meet the definition of family member, such as a boyfriend or same-sex partner, can only go to criminal court for legal assistance. In addition, mandatory arrest, which applies when an abuser violates an order of protection or commits certain other offenses, is only applicable when a case involves individuals who meet the family definition. Many police departments in New York State, however, use an expanded definition of family when making mandatory arrest determinations. This provides greater protection to victims who fall outside of the New York State definition, although these victims still do not have access to Family Court.
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive tactics that can include physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and emotional abuse, perpetrated by one person against an adult intimate partner, with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control. Domestic violence occurs in all kinds of intimate relationships, including married couples, people who are dating, couples who live together, people with children in common, same-sex partners, people who were formerly in a relationship with the person abusing them, and teen dating relationships.