NOTICE: This is an archived press release. Information contained on this page may be outdated. Please refer to our latest press releases for up-to-date information.

Post date: April 29 2003

Attorney General Renews Call For Legislation To Bar Housing Discrimination Against Victims Of Domestic Violence

Attorney General Spitzer today renewed his call for lawmakers to take up legislation barring housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Spitzer made the proposal while speaking at a meeting of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA), an advocacy group which speaks out against such violence.

"Abuse victims encounter many challenges in their lives including obtaining and retaining safe housing," Spitzer said. Property owners who refuse housing to victims of domestic violence place them in the position of having to choose between living in fear or losing their housing. Victims are also deterred from taking important steps to ensure their safety."

Landlords and others often assume that a rapist, stalker or batterer will follow his victim to her lodgings, and create disturbances for other tenants. As a result, advocates report that many victims are served with eviction notices.

Anne Liske, Executive Director of NYSCASA said: "Measures to ensure safety and security in housing for those living with the trauma and fear of sexual and domestic violence, and stalking represent an important step forward in recognition of the need for adequate and appropriate responses to crime victims in New York."

Sherry Frohman, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence said: "Safe and secure housing is key to the well-being of women who are abused and their children. We applaud the leadership of the Attorney General in dismantling one of the barriers to this goal by working to protect victims of domestic violence from housing discrimination."

Wendy R. Weiser of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund said: "We urge the legislature to support this law, which is essential to helping victims of domestic violence and stalking achieve security and independence from their abusers."

An increasing body of research documents the housing problems faced by abused women. A recent study indicates that 67 percent of domestic violence service providers said discriminatory housing practices by landlords are a significant obstacle for battered women.

Rhode Island, Washington and New Mexico have recently passed laws that prohibit housing discrimination against, or provide some protections for, domestic violence victims.

In 1985, the Office of the Attorney General issued a formal opinion recognizing that the human rights laws' ban on discrimination in publically assisted housing prohibits the denial of rentals to all domestic violence victims, because such an action would have a disproportionate impact on women, and is not justified as a business necessity.

Spitzer's legislation would clarify that the Human Rights Law extends this protection to domestic violence and sexual assault victims. The bill would also prohibit disclosure to landlords of information about housing applicants' status of a domestic violence victim. Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito and Senator Nicholas Spano have introduced the measure (A. 8135 / S. 4812) in their respective legislative houses.

"Enactment of this statute will send a clear message that housing discrimination against victims of domestic and sexual violence is illegal," Spitzer said. Persons will be protected, not punished, for being subjected to the suffering that results from such violence," concluded Spitzer.

According to the findings of the National Violence Against Women Survey, an estimated 1.5 million women are raped or physically assaulted by a partner annually in the United States. On average, more than three women each day are killed by a husband or partner. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 1 in 6 women have experienced sexual assault.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) received over 145,000 domestic violence incident reports in 2000. The agency also reports, more than 20,000 sexual assaults, and 3,000 forcible rapes that year. In that same year, the New York State Department of Health reported that advocates in the state's 76 Rape Crisis Centers were attending to over 25,000 active cases.