Intimate Partner and Family Violence
Intimate partner violence is a serious problem that affects millions of Americans. It is one of the most underreported crimes. While people have many important reasons for not telling anyone about the abuse, many victims do not speak about the abuse because of fear or shame.
Anyone of any race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation can become a victim of intimate partner violence. It affects people of all income and education levels, and can happen to people who are dating, married, or living together.
Fortunately, there are many human services and legal resources that can help victims of intimate partner violence throughout New York State. For more information about intimate partner violence, please go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.
What is Intimate Partner Violence?
Intimate partner violence refers to abusive, controlling, threatening, or violent behavior by a current or former partner against the other partner. Intimate partner violence can also be called “domestic abuse”, “domestic violence” or “dating violence.”
The abuse can take many forms, such as physical, emotional, sexual, economic, or mental abuse. Abusive partners sometimes use technology to abuse, or keep track of current or former partners. A person who abuses their partner is trying to get and keep power and control in the relationship.
It’s not always easy to tell if your partner is abusive, especially at the start of a new relationship. Please look at these Warning Signs if you think your partner might be abusive.
What is Family Violence?
When a family or household member uses abuse, threats, or violence to control other members of the family, this is family violence. This can include an adult child abusing their parent, a parent abusing a child, or when one sibling hurts and controls another sibling. Like intimate partner violence, the abusive family member behaves in order to gain and maintain power and control over the other family members.
What help is available for victims of Intimate Partner and Family Violence?
If you need immediate help, please call 911.
There are also hotlines where you can speak to trained counselors:
- New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline: 1-800-942-6906 (English, Spanish, multi-language hotline)
- Relay service for Deaf or hard of hearing: 711
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
- National Deaf Hotline Videophone (9am-5pm M-F): 1-855-812-1001 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotline staff can help you with:
- Crisis Counseling
- Safety Planning
- Assistance finding shelters
- Learning more about your legal rights and options
For more help with your safety and legal options, please talk to an advocate at a domestic violence program near you.
If I call the police, what are my rights?
Victims of intimate partner and family violence have the right to call 911 for help. Some important information for domestic violence victims includes the right to:
- A copy of the Domestic Incident Report and a Victim Rights Notice.
- Expect the police to try to identify and arrest the person who is the “primary physical aggressor” and not arrest both of you.This means, the police must find out if there is a history of domestic abuse, compare each person’s injuries, and see who acted defensively.
- Ask the police to help you and your children find a safe place to stay, including a domestic violence shelter for emergency housing.
- Ask the police or district attorney's office to file criminal charges against the abusive partner or family member.
- Ask Family Court for an order of protection.
- An interpreter if you don't speak English well.
I'm the victim but I got arrested. What can I do?
- Get an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the criminal court must provide an attorney for you for free.
- Tell your attorney about previous times you were abused by your partner. Your attorney can talk to the prosecutor to help them understand what happened. Do not contact the District Attorney’s Office on your own.
- Do not contact your partner. They may have an Order of Protection against you.
Please go to the NYS Courts website for information about criminal domestic violence cases.
Revenge Porn or Sexual Image Exploitation
Technology and the internet can be used by offenders to embarrass, humiliate, and harm victims. Revenge Porn, which is more appropriately known as sexual image exploitation, is when intimate sexual images are shared without the victim’s permission.
Sexual image exploitation can have a devastating impact on a victim’s emotional and mental health.
What is Sexual Image Exploitation?
Sexual image exploitation refers to the distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent. In other words, it is when someone posts online private, nude, or sexual pictures or recordings of you without your permission.
Often, the person who shares the images is an ex-partner, but the offender can also be a stranger who hacked your phone, laptop, or cloud storage account.
This crime is also known as nonconsensual sharing of sexual images.
- Images that were taken without your knowledge or permission, for example, images taken through hidden cameras.
- Images taken with your permission as part of an intimate relationship that were meant to stay private.
- Images where a picture of your head is placed onto another person’s body to create a pornographic or embarrassing image.
Offenders often post these images on social media platforms to embarrass and hurt the victim, or to damage their reputation. Offenders may also use the images as a way to blackmail victims into continuing the relationship.
What can I do?
Remember, it is a crime to publish or share intimate images without your permission. You can contact the police or the District Attorney’s Office if you want the matter handled through criminal court. If the person sharing the images is a current of former intimate partner or family member, you can go to Family Court to get an Order of Protection against them and to make them stop sharing these images.
Victims of this crime experience a great deal of trauma. More than anything else, they want the images to be taken down immediately.
If you find out that your images have been shared without your permission, immediately tighten your privacy and security settings on your social media accounts. For example, increase your privacy on Facebook and make your passwords secure.
You can also tell the Federal Trade Commission if a company posts your image without your consent and won’t take it down.
You can find links to low cost or pro bono (free volunteer) Attorneys on the Cyber Rights Initiative website.
If you are a victim of sexual image exploitation, please call the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Crisis Helpline at 844-878-2274 for support and advice.
Sexual Abuse and Assault
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act where threats, force or violence was used by the offender. Sexual assault also includes sexual activity when the victim cannot give consent, for example, when the victim is underage, drunk, or under the influence of drugs.
Sexual assault is a term that describes many different kinds of unwanted behaviors. This can include rape, attempted rape, fondling or touching your body without your permission, and sexual harassment or making sexual comments that make the victim feel uncomfortable.
When a person is being sexually assaulted by someone they know and trust, this is sexual abuse.
Sexual assault and sexual abuse are crimes, even if you are married to the abuser.
What can I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
Sexual assault can be very distressing and traumatic. But please know that what happened to you is not your fault. You are not alone, and there are people who can help you take the first steps toward healing.
- If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
- Contact the New York State Hotline for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence at 1-800-942-6906. They can help you decide what you can do, and where to go to get help.
- Contact your local rape crisis program. Advocates there can help you with crisis intervention support, and medical attention.
- Get immediate medical attention from your doctor or a hospital near you. You may have unseen injuries, and need testing for possible pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. You can bring someone you trust with you for support.
For more information about sexual assault and what you can do, please visit the Office for Victims of Crime Help Series sexual violence brochure.
I was sexually assaulted. Is it too late to call the police? Can I sue the person who assaulted me?
Every person has a different response to the trauma of abuse. For some people, the trauma of childhood abuse can last years. Many victims may feel the need for reparation and accountability – for things to be made right and for the abuser to be punished for their wrongdoing.
Victims of crimes have the right to call the police and ask the District Attorney to prosecute the offender in criminal court. If you were sexually abused as a child, you have until you turn 28 years old to have the abuser criminally charged. If you were sexually assaulted as an adult, you can call the police and ask the District Attorney to prosecute the offender.
You also have the right to start a civil case against the person who assaulted you. In the civil case, you can ask for “civil damages” – an award of money to compensate you for the harm done to you.
If you were abused as a child, you have the right under the Child Victims Act to start a civil case against the abuser or the organization that protected the abuser until you are 55 years old. If you were sexually assaulted as an adult, the time you have to file a civil lawsuit against the person who assaulted you depends on the type of sex crime committed.
For suggestions on how to find a lawyer to start a civil case under the Child Victims Act, please download this resource.
For suggestions on how to find a lawyer to start a civil case under the Adult Survivors Act, please download this resource.
For more information, resources, and for legal assistance, please see:
Stalking is a serious crime. Some stalkers can get more dangerous over time and may turn violent. While a stalker can be anyone, it is usually someone that you have dated, worked with, or had some form of relationship with. If you are being stalked, it is common to feel afraid, unsafe, anxious, stressed, or angry. Please know that help is available.
What is Stalking?
Stalking is when one person repeatedly follows, harasses, or behaves in a way that would make a reasonable person afraid. You don’t have to be physically injured or hurt to be a victim of stalking.
Some examples of stalking behavior include:
- Following you, driving by or hanging out at your home, school, or work.
- Sending unwanted gifts, letters, or cards.
- Repeated calls, including hang-ups.
- Repeated threatening communications, especially after being told to stop.
- Damaging your home, car, or other property.
- Monitoring your phone calls or computer use.
- Using global positioning systems (GPS) or other technology to track where you go.
- Threatening to hurt you, your family, your friends, or pets.
- Contacting your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers as a way to track or frighten you.
- Posting information or spreading rumors about you on the internet or in public places.
What can I do if I am being stalked?
Stalking is a crime and can be dangerous. If you think you are unsafe, take the threats seriously.
- If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
- Contact a victim services agency, a domestic violence program, or a rape crisis program. They can help with a plan for your safety, and refer you to the services you need.
- Tell your close friends, family, and coworkers to get their help.
- Keep a record. Write down every time the stalker follows or contacts you (the time, date, and place). Keep emails, notes, texts, or phone messages.
- Contact the police and report the crime.
- Get a criminal court order of protection or a family court order of protection which is a court order telling the stalker to stay away from you.
Please visit the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center for more information and resources, including the Stalking Documentation Log and the Stalking Safety Planning Strategies.
Older adults tend to be more vulnerable to crime than any other age group. This is because older adults can be more trusting, less likely to fight back, and may have memory or physical impairments. Due to this, they are often targets of crimes like robbery, burglary, financial abuse, neglect, and fraud. Unfortunately, many older adults are abused where they live.
When the victim knows the offender (the person harming them) – such as a caregiver, family member, intimate partner, friend, or neighbor – it can be difficult to see that behavior as abusive, and even harder to identify the behavior as a crime.
Some older adults don’t report the abuse to anyone because they don’t want the person they know to get in trouble. Others do not report the abuse because they are afraid they may lose their independence, or don’t know what will happen if they report the crime.
But it is important to understand that elder abuse is a crime, and help is available. If you or someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, you can call the police or Adult Protective Services at 1-844-697-3505.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an adult who is 60 years or older. It can take many forms:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse or abusive sexual contact
- Emotional abuse
- Financial exploitation
You can find explanations about the various types of abuse on the National Institute on Aging website.
What are some of the signs of Elder Abuse?
Here are some of the signs that you or someone you know may be a victim of elder abuse:
- Bruises, welts, fractures, broken bones, rope burns, or signs of hair pulling.
- Weight loss or dry skin, poor color, sunken eyes/cheeks, which may be signs that you don’t have enough of the right foods to eat, or enough to drink.
- Wearing dirty or unclean clothing and bedding.
- Health problems that cannot be explained.
- Excessive fear.
- Problems with sleep. This can include not being allowed to sleep, or sleeping too much.
- Signs that medication isn’t being given correctly. Some signs include drowsiness, not being alert or aware of their surroundings, and confusion.
- Anxiety or hesitation to talk openly.
- Home is disorderly, fridge is empty.
- Unpaid bills, disconnected utilities.
- Stops taking part in things they used to enjoy.
- Sudden change to power of attorney or other legal documents.
For more information on the risk factors and indicators of Elder Abuse, please visit the New York Office of Children and Family Services website.
Where can I find help?
If you or someone you know is being harmed, you can contact New York State Adult Protective Services at 1-844-697-3505. They can help investigate the case and offer services to protect the adult from harm.
The services they may offer include:
- Counseling for you and your family
- Arranging your medical and mental health assessments
- Applying for public benefits
- Helping you with law enforcement and other agencies
- Finding living arrangements
- Managing your finances
- Limited housekeeping services
- Crisis interventions, such as orders of protection
- Long-term legal help, such as guardianship (being legally responsible for the care of the elder adult).
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be a victim of elder abuse, please visit the National Center On Elder Abuse for more information and resources.
Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide, including here in the United States. Trafficking can happen in any community, and victims can be from any race, gender, age, or nationality.
Human Trafficking is a form of slavery. The fear experienced by victims and the trauma caused by traffickers can be so great that many individuals may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help.
Are you a victim of human trafficking, or do you suspect someone is a trafficking victim? Please see this checklist.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human Trafficking happens when someone is forced, tricked, or coerced into working. This can include sex work. Victims can be found in legal and illegal businesses, like restaurants, factories, sweatshops, massage parlors, hotels, and domestic service (housecleaning, cooking, child care, gardening, etc.).
Traffickers may use promises of well-paying jobs, romantic relationships, violence, or threats of violence against family members in order to keep the person working. The trafficker limits the victim’s freedom. This can be done by taking away the victim’s passport, driver’s license, and other documentation. Traffickers can also withhold a victim’s wages. Often, the living conditions of the victims are inhumane (poor sanitation, inadequate food, dangerous working conditions, lack of quality healthcare, etc.).
Human trafficking is a serious human rights violation.
NOTE: Under US federal law, anyone under the age of 18 who is induced to work as a commercial sex worker is a victim of human trafficking.
Is Human Trafficking the same as Human Smuggling?
No, but they are related crimes.
Human Smuggling involves the smuggled person’s permission and transportation across international borders. Usually, the person agrees to be transported illegally into a country, and pays the smuggler a large amount of money. Once in the country, they are free of their smugglers. If the smuggler uses force, fraud, or coercion to hold the person against their will for purposes of labor or sexual exploitation, then it becomes human trafficking.
How can I get help? What do I do if I think someone is involved in Human Trafficking?
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to 233733
Call Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423
For more information, please contact The Department of Homeland Security.
Help With Other Needs
For immediate help and to report a crime, call 911.
Need help understanding legal terms? Please see the NY Court Help Glossary.
Need help paying for food, housing utilities, or child care? Do you need help with healthcare, disability, vocational or other services? Visit findservicesNY.gov or visit the NYS Social Programs website.
Visit the Hotlines page for national and New York State resources.