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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Dondi Quintans 
Media@urinyc.org 

February 16, 2023 New York, NY – Urban Resource Institute (URI) today applauded passage of transformative legislation to help survivors of domestic and gender-based violence achieve economic justice. Sponsored by New York City Council Member Justin Brannan, Chair of the Finance Committee, Bill Int. 148-A, would redefine the term “victim of domestic violence” under the New York City Human Rights Law to recognize economic abuse as a form of domestic violence and would extend existing protections for domestic violence survivors to those who have experienced economic abuse, including coerced debt.

Economic abuse occurs when one person uses tactics of power and control to restrain or sabotage another person’s ability to acquire, use or maintain economic resources to which they are entitled. Coerced debt, one type of economic abuse, is defined as debt that was incurred as a result of fraud, duress, intimidation, coercion, threat, force, manipulation, undue influence, or the non-consensual use of the debtor’s personal information. For example, an abuser or a person who causes harm may threaten to hurt the survivor, their children, friends, family members, or pets if they do not open a credit card in their name and allow the person access to using it.

“Economic abuse is pervasive, and its impact is often devastating for survivors. Economic abuse or coerced debt often results in a survivor being saddled with insurmountable debt, which can lead to an inability to obtain housing, feeling emotionally overwhelmed and alone. This legislation is a start to recognizing the hard reality faced by nearly all survivors and begins to provide them with the tools they need to move forward. Thank you to Council Member Brannan for working on this important issue, and to Council Member Cabán for her partnership and leadership,” said Teal Inzunza, Program Director of URI’s Economic Empowerment Program. “The State should follow the City’s lead and pass bill A.1309/S.2278 to provide survivors of economic abuse with a legal means to discharge a coerced debt.” 

A full 98% of all survivors of domestic or gender-based violence report that they have experienced some level of economic abuse, with a majority listing it as among the primary reasons that they stay in or return to an abusive situation. Economic justice is foundational to a safe, sustainable future for those escaping abuse. 

Earlier this year, Council Member Tiffany Cabán, Chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, held a hearing on ways to achieve economic justice for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence.

“Domestic violence is among the leading causes of homelessness in New York: approximately 41% of people in shelter fled domestic violence. Domestic violence is a critical racial and gender justice issue as women of color are disproportionately impacted by it. And it is also an economic justice issue – nearly every single survivor of domestic violence has experienced economic abuse, yet until today, survivors have had no legal recourse to get out from under coerced debt economic abuse. As the Chair of the Commitee on Women and Gender Equity, I was honored to help shepherd this legislation forward and proud to have passed the #SupportSurvivors bill package, which recognizes that economic empowerment is a key pathway to safety. It is vital that we continue dismantling systems of oppression that keep people locked in unsafe cycles of poverty,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán, Chair of the Women and Gender Equity Committee. 

“New Yorkers should take pride in our history of standing up for survivors of domestic violence. Survivors often need support to get out of these abusive and sometimes violent situations and sustainably reclaim their lives. I’m proud to help expand the existing protections to survivors of economic and financial abuse. Economic abuse has always been a quiet and insidious form of domestic violence, even if government has historically missed the memo. This type of abuse occurs in almost every abusive relationship and is the number one reason victims stay in or return to abusive relationships. Now our laws, protections, and programs can catch up to what’s actually going on in so many of these situations,” said Council Member Justin Brannan, Chair of the Finance Committee and the bill’s lead sponsor. 

“URI’s EEC provides hundreds of survivors of domestic and gender-based violence with the tools they need to achieve financial independence. Despite that, no amount of credit counseling can provide survivors of domestic or gender-based violence with relief from coerced debt,” said Nathaniel M. Fields, CEO of Urban Resource Institute. “URI and survivors across New York City thank the Council and we urge the Mayor to prioritize economic justice for survivors by quickly signing this groundbreaking bill into law so that we can set our sights on Albany, and ensuring that New York follows the lead of Texas, California and Maine, and creates a state-level cause of action for coerced debt.” 

The comprehensive services URI provides to survivors of domestic violence and homelessness include the Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) that directly addresses the impacts of economic abuse, empowering clients to rebuild their financial futures.  

The Economic Empowerment Program is one of the portfolio of innovative and holistic services Urban Resource Institute delivers along with safe shelter. Since 1980, URI has grown to become the largest provider of domestic violence (DV) residential shelter services in the country with the capacity to accommodate approximately 1,200 survivors of domestic violence on any given night along with approximately 1,000 homeless adults and children.

“Economic abuse is a serious and harmful type of domestic violence that often goes unnoticed. However, with the introduction of Intro 148-A, a crucial step has been taken towards ensuring that all survivors of domestic violence, regardless of the type, receive the necessary protection and support they deserve. This legislation provides direct access to the services that survivors of economic abuse need to recover and heal. The City Council has taken a strong stance against all forms of domestic violence and is actively working towards creating a safer and more supportive community for all New Yorkers. As a co-sponsor of this bill, I am proud of the progress we are making to combat domestic violence and provide survivors with the necessary services they require in a timely manner. Together, we can put an end to domestic violence and economic abuse. Let us work towards building a safer community for all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Farah Louis.

“Safe Horizon is grateful to the New York City Council for listening to survivors and passing Int. 148 today. We are especially thankful to Council Members Justin Brannan and Tiffany Cabán and Speaker Adrienne Adams for their leadership in moving this legislation forward. We know that 99% of all domestic violence survivors experience economic abuse, which has a lasting impact and can prohibit survivors from moving toward financial stability, independence, and healing. Int. 148 adds critical protections for survivors of economic abuse by allowing the NYC Commission on Human Rights to enforce housing, employment, and public accommodation violations on behalf of survivors of this pervasive form of abuse. We now call on Mayor Adams to sign this bill into law immediately. The passage of Int. 148 is an important step forward in addressing the scourge of economic abuse, and we encourage the NYS Legislature and Governor Hochul to follow NYC’s lead and expand protections and supports for survivors across New York,” said Blair Dorosh-Walther, Economic Empowerment Program Manager, Safe Horizon.
 
“New York State should follow New York City’s lead by passing Senator Cordell Cleare and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s legislation to provide survivors with legal relief from coerced debt. Survivors face significant obstacles in leaving an abusive situation, and the New York State Legislature has the singular authority to remove one significant barrier and help countless survivors and families in their journey to safety and healing,” added Fields. 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project thanks CM Caban, CM Brannan and the Speaker for successfully championing INT 148 that will expand the City’s understanding of Domestic Violence to explicitly and expansively include Economic Abuse. Over the last 40+ years AVP has seen first-hand that LGBTQ survivors experience exponentially higher degrees of harm from not only physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual violence, but economic violence as well. AVP knows that the harms of intimate partner violence are compounded by systemic barriers that invisibilize, misunderstand and disbelieve LGBTQ survivors’ experiences because they do not fit the gendered norms of survivorship and economic self-sufficiency. This bill is the needed start to call systems in to address and validate the degrading effect of financial coercion and control that underpins so much of the relationship violence we witness in our LGBTQ clients’ lives,” said Aditi Bhattacharya, Deputy Director for Client Services, New York City Anti-Violence Project. 

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About Urban Resource Institute: 

Urban Resource Institute (URI) transforms the lives of domestic violence survivors and homeless families by empowering individuals, families, and communities, particularly communities of color and other vulnerable populations, to end cycles of domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and trauma by increasing safety and resiliency. As the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the US and a leading provider of homeless services, URI’s programs impact more than 40,000 individuals annually through prevention, intervention, education, and direct services in both residential and non-residential settings in New York. URI is recognized as a thought-leader with influence across the U.S. and beyond. For more information, visit www.urinyc.org or follow on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, call NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. 

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