The majority of New York state agencies revamped their domestic violence prevention practices and appointed a liaison to comply with an executive order months ahead of schedule, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of the State Inspector General.
The changes come less than three months after it was revealed that senior management at the General Service Office failed to follow policy when an employee indicated she was a victim of domestic violence.
In 2019, the woman was killed by her husband, who later committed suicide. The tragedy was a catalyst for the New York Inspector General to investigate shortcomings in state policy and practice, released in April.
“We may never know if the oversights that occurred in this tragic case would have been avoided if something had been different, but what we can do is educate state agencies, employees of the state, political leaders and all members of the community about the complexities of domestic violence and how to identify the signs of domestic violence,” State Inspector General Lucy Lang said Wednesday.
Lang spent the day in Seneca Falls, hosting a forum to commemorate the 174th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, or the first convention for women’s rights in the United States.
“We must also educate [agencies] …how to connect people with the trauma-informed survivor center resources they need,” she added.
Also in late April, Governor Kathy Hochul issued an executive order requiring all state agencies to adopt policies on gender-based violence in the workplace and have a domestic violence liaison to work with the Bureau of Justice. for the prevention of domestic violence.
Of the liaisons, Lang said, “This is all in an effort to develop a holistic, survivor-centered approach to domestic violence rates rather than a single law enforcement response.”
About 98%, or 83 of 90 state agencies surveyed by the State Office of the Inspector General, have appointed a domestic violence prevention liaison, according to the report released Wednesday. Seventy-five agencies, or 88%, have liaison officers who have received training from the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.
“Links [help] to focus on broadening the understanding of what domestic violence looks like and helping employees in all government departments know and understand that there are resources in place, that there are things that they can do to help support someone and that there are strategies to help support accountability for someone who may be abusive and who is also employed by this particular agency,” said Connie Neal, Director Executive of the State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The OPDV Liaison provides services including connection to local community groups, shelter systems, social workers and other experts who work in trauma-related fields.
About 82%, or 70 agencies, have an agency-specific workplace domestic violence policy, with nine departments following another agency’s guidelines.
Three agencies had no domestic violence policy or liaison. The majority of liaisons work in human relations, administration, or are senior executives in the state agency.
Five agencies did not respond to the IG’s request at press time.
The inspector general’s office on Wednesday did not identify offices that have not yet responded, implemented a domestic violence in the workplace policy or related liaison, as they have more than five months to respond. comply with the order. The IG will announce offices found to be non-compliant after January 1st.
“The integrity of government is, at its core, a women’s issue,” Lang said. “It’s a race issue – it’s an issue that should concern everyone, and we are responsible, as the Office of the Inspector General, for overseeing the investigation of fraud, corruption and abuse in state agencies. What we saw here was, really, a very quick response in support, really a rally around the issue of domestic violence.”
Lang is confident that all 90 agencies will be in compliance by Jan. 1. The Inspector General will ensure that all agencies are in compliance with the binding recommendations if necessary.
OPDV Executive Director Kelli Owens stressed that domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence do not end when someone goes to work, as victims and survivors may be stalked or harassed at office or arrive with signs of physical abuse.
“We should take every opportunity to educate people to recognize what gender-based violence looks like, learn how to help survivors, and make it easier for survivors to access resources,” Owens said. Hochul’s executive order requiring all NYS agencies to adopt broad workplace policies on gender-based violence, as well as requiring each agency to appoint an anti-violence agency liaison domestic, will ensure that all survivors who work for New York State receive resources that are survivors. centred, trauma-informed and culturally appropriate. »
Owens credited Lang and Hochul for the step forward, adding that it shows the impact women in leadership positions have on politics and people in the state.
Agencies are about evenly split in providing annual training on domestic violence in the workplace to their staff, with 45% not providing this training.
The report shows that three agencies relied solely on the policies of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence instead of designing and implementing their own as needed.
The inspector general began surveying agencies late this spring to provide insight into progress toward meeting the governor’s Jan. 1 deadline and help agencies transition. In the report, Lang found that the majority of agencies actively distribute their policy or liaison contact information through emails, posters and trainings.
Lang recommends that every new hire receive extensive training on an agency’s domestic violence policy during the onboarding process, and to require all staff to read and review the policy annually.
Hochul’s April Executive Order is similar, but applies new mandates, the August 1, 2008 Executive Order signed by then-Governor David Paterson requiring state agencies to form and publish a policy on domestic violence. Agencies were encouraged to use guidelines distributed by the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which included a directive that each agency appoint a liaison, but agencies were not required to adopt the policy and complete procedures.
“Governor Hochul’s mother opened a home for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, and this issue is personal to her, which is why she has worked to make New York State a safer place for all by requiring state agencies to adopt policies that protect employees and create a safe work environment for survivors,” Hochul press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for the safety of victims and survivors and to prevent domestic violence.”
State departments and agencies must appoint a liaison officer under the Hochul ordinance, which also requires mandatory annual training for supervisors, domestic violence agency liaison officers, staff of human resources and all employees working directly for the governor.
New York is the only US state to have an executive-level agency dedicated to gender-based violence, including domestic violence, harassment, and sexual assault. The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence was established in 1992.