Domestic abuse is a problem that affects millions of Americans. There are approximately six million cases of domestic abuse that occur annually. To make matters worse, an estimated two to four million women fall victim to the domestic battery every year. Domestic violence doesn’t only affect married couples. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared the month of February as Teen Dating Violence and Awareness and Prevention Month in the state of New York. The intention is to stop domestic abuse and combat the rise of violence among young adult and student relationships.
Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
The state of New York has taken a number of measures to combat violence and abuse among partners, regardless of age. The government has designed an entire department, called the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, whose sole purpose is to help stop violence, abuse, and bullying. For family matters, a number of counties in New York have created specialized courts that attend to both criminal and civil cases when the family is involved. These courts are called Integrated Domestic Violence courts.
Integrated Domestic Violence court in New York
Buffalo, New York was one of the first places in New York to have one of these courts. Erie County, where Buffalo is located, adopted the Integrated Domestic Violence court system in November 2003. Establishing this court system has helped remove some of the congestion in New York’s courts. Since the same judge presides over all cases regarding a single family, it has helped the court make informed decisions that put the needs of the family first.
One of the ways that Integrated Domestic Violence courts have sped up the justice process in Buffalo is by reducing bureaucracy. Prior to 2003, families who were involved in criminal and family court cases were often pulled between the two systems. Before a family case was decided, the judge would wait for a verdict in the criminal matter, and vice versa. This caused court cases to be delayed and, in some situations, put vulnerable family members at risk. Moreover, some judgments would be made without having a greater understanding of family dynamics. There have been cases where the defendant was found guilty in criminal court but was cleared in family court. The justice system failed to protect families many times because of this.
After introducing the Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, the city of Buffalo has been able to take a stronger stand against violence and abuse. Judges now have all the information required to make informed decisions regarding family matters. This is very important when court systems in the western area of New York State, including Erie County, see an average of 2,600 court cases a year regarding domestic violence.