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Testimony of Urban Resource Institute before the New York City Council Committees on Women & Gender Equity & Health on Addressing the Disparities in Women’s Health
February 14, 2024



Good morning. My name is Lauren Schuster. I am the Vice President of Government Affairs at Urban Resource Institute (URI). Thank you, Chairs Louis and Schulman for convening this important hearing to examine and address the disparities in women’s health and for providing the opportunity to present testimony today.

Urban Resource Institute is the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the country, in addition to being a leading provider of transitional housing to families experiencing homelessness. URI is committed to ending cycles of violence and homelessness by providing trauma-informed and client centered support to the families in our care. In addition to transitional housing, URI helps families to achieve economic wellness, we work with youth and in communities to interrupt cycles of violence and we are committed to engaging people who have caused harm in the solutions to end that violence. On any given night, URI provides temporary housing to 3,900 people in the safety of one of our temporary homes. Each year, we provide services to approximately 40,000 people who have experienced homelessness or violence.

Domestic violence poses a serious and growing threat to public health and safety. Though domestic violence does not discriminate based on gender identify or sexual orientation, here in New York and across the country, women continue to be disproportionately impacted by domestic violence. Between 2010 and 2022, women accounted for 77.1% of all victims of domestic violence homicides in New York City, while accounting for a little more than half of the overall population. (FRC)

The rates of homicide and felony assaults related to domestic violence have increased. Between the one-year period of 2021 and 2022, domestic violence homicides increased by 29% citywide. The increases were even more pronounced on a borough level, with Brooklyn experiencing a 225% increase in DV homicides and the Bronx experiencing a 57% increase over the same time period.

Just this past weekend in the Bronx, Saida Bonilla, 40-year-old Black woman was shot and killed by her former partner, an individual who allegedly was stalking her and who Saida’s family reports had been abusing her throughout their relationship. The individual also shot Saida’s nephews, ages 16 and 9 years old. A domestic violence homicide such as this one has long lasting impacts that ripple out through generations of families and communities. These children, their families and the families of everyone involved in this situation, including friends, neighbors and members of the community, will be grappling with the physical, emotional and psychological impact of this tragic situation for years to come.

Continually, Black women like Saida, continue to be disproportionately impacted by domestic violence. The same is true for Latina women and yet resources to support this marginalized community are scarce. According to the New York City Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee 2023 Annual Report, “Black females have experienced the highest rates of domestic violence homicide for decades. Between 2010 and 2022, Black people were 2.4 times more likely than members of other racial/ethnic groups to be domestic violence homicide victims, including almost 2 times more likely to be victims of an intimate partner homicide and almost 2.8 times more likely to be victims of a homicide by another family member.

Domestic violence is a serious and growing public health problem. Like many other persistent public health problems, it impacts marginalized communities in more significant ways. And like other growing public health problems, as a City, we have a responsibility to mobilize resources to slow the rates of domestic violence.” The data shows that Black women, while accounting for only 21% of the population, represent 41% of intimate partner homicides, while Hispanic women, just 28% of the population, account for 36% of these incidents.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are also more likely to experience domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV),“43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner atsome point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.” Black trans women have some of the highest rates of DV homicides in the country.

Domestic violence often disproportionately impacts gay men and is worse for people who identify as transgender.

Domestic violence is not inevitable. We can stop domestic violence by investing in community-led solutions that center equity and the voices of survivors and impacted communities. We must invest in violence prevention that is specifically designed to address family violence. Investing in youth violence prevention and healthy relationship education, particularly in high-risk communities, has the potential to help interrupt the cycles that fuel domestic violence.

At the same time, we must also invest in programs that provide people who have caused harm with the support necessary to navigate life and interpersonal relationships without violence. Many people who have caused harm have experienced violence themselves. Without excusing violent behavior, it is vital that we understand the impact that violence has had and provide tools to stop the violence, while requiring accountability and providing access to wrap around supports, such as housing, employment and health services, to name a few.

And we must build out a more robust network of services that empower survivors and help them to achieve safety and healing. Expanding funding for and access to programs that provide survivors and their families with access to direct cash assistance, financial advocacy, economic empowerment and workforce development services will make it easier for survivors to seek safety and rebuild their lives.

Economic abuse is lethal. Nearly all survivors of economic abuse report that they have experienced some level of economic abuse. And the majority cite it as among the top reasons that they stay in or return to an abusive situation. Providing survivors with access to no-string or low-barrier cash assistance could save their lives.

Domestic violence isn’t just a personal problem that happens behind closed doors. It affects entire communities in varied and complex ways.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, nearly 75% of female domestic violence survivors and 48% of male domestic violence survivors experience some form of injury as a result of domestic violence. Here in New York, while most categories of violent crime have decreased, the number of felony assaults has increased, driven in part by domestic violence. A whopping 30% of all felony assaults occurred within the context of domestic violence.

While domestic violence is personally devastating, this level of sustained violence has significant impacts on the economy and other systems. The CDC puts “the lifetime economic cost associated with medical services for IPV-related injuries, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice and other costs at $3.6 trillion” nationally. The cost of IPV over a victim’s lifetime was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men.

Domestic violence is among the single largest drivers of homelessness: more than 40% of all families in New York’s family homelessness system are there as a result of domestic violence. These families are more likely to need access to other public benefits, and financial and emotional supports as a result. One cannot have a conversation about public health and safety for women in New York City without discussing the impacts that domestic violence has on families and communities, particularly in already marginalized communities with a history of dis- or underinvestment. If we mobilize resources to address domestic violence in the same way that we do other public health crises, we have a real opportunity to reduce harm and make New York safer and healthier for everyone.

URI looks forward to continuing to partner with the New York City Council in this important work. Thank you.