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State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson Photo: NYS Senate
State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson Photo: NYS Senate

Lawmakers look to "close gap" on domestic violence laws

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Activists and lawmakers say better protections are needed for battered men, women and children across New York. New York Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson is co-sponsor of a group of bills that supporters say will close gaps in the protection of victims of domestic and sexual violence.

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She told Susan Arbetter, host of the public radio program Capitol Pressroom, that many times those victims are punished again by society.

"We still have discrimination in employment that we have to deal with," Sen. Hassell-Thompson said. "Employers have gotten to the place where if there are too many issues in the workplace, they would fire the employee. There are no protections in the law [for domestic violence victims] against it."

We want to allow the circumstances of their abuse to be a part of how the judge looks at this case, hopefully with a new eye.
Hassell-Thompson also said that a pending bill in Albany would allow landlords to evict tentants, even if domestic violence is a factor in disturbances on the property. She hopes that bill will be rejected.

But her primary focus has been passing legislation that would allow judges to consider domestic violence as a factor when establishing prison sentences for women who have been battered.

Past studies have shown that a significant percentage of women serving time behind bars have suffered some kind of domestic violence.

"This gives the courts an opportunity to look at a case with an understanding of what domestic violence is," she said. "We want to allow the circumsances of their abuse to be a part of how the judge looks at this case, hopefully with a new eye."

Hassell-Thompson acknowledged that some prosecutors see the measure as a "get out of jail free" card, but she argued that allowing judges' discretion would result in greater sentencing fairness.

Hear an excerpt of Arbetter's interview with Hassell-Thompson by clicking "Listen" above. To hear their full conversation click here.

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