Thanks To This Bill, Survivors Of Domestic And Sexual Abuse Could Get Paid Time Off In New York City

"No woman should have to decide between her safety and her paycheck."

Survivors of domestic or sexual abuse in New York City could soon be allowed paid time off from work, thanks to a new bill which passed unanimously in the City Council earlier this week. According to the New York Daily News, the bill expands on the city's existing paid sick days law, and would allow survivors up to five days paid leave per year.

The bill, introduced last October, refers to this as "safe time," for victims of "family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking and human trafficking." It also applies to their family members. If signed into law, this would allow survivors more time to appear in court, meet with attorneys, move away from an abuser, or attend counseling.

This is unfortunately not an option which is currently available to all survivors. Julie Owens, a survivor who consults with federal agencies about working with victims, told Broadly, "Over my nearly 30 years of work with victims, many have told me that they were fired or forced from jobs for 'going to court too much' or for staying home when they were covered with bruises, or for literally being trapped in the house by their abuser who refused to allow them to leave for work during or after a violent incident."

Others, Owens added, were so afraid to lose their jobs that they didn't seek the help or safety they needed, and the abuse continued. She said this newly passed legislation "can literally be life-saving." Other major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh already have similar laws in place.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who co-sponsored the bill, said at a press conference that women experiencing domestic violence miss an average of 7.2 days of work because of it.

"Poor and low-income survivors are often faced with the impossible choice of protecting themselves from violence or keeping a roof over their children's heads," Tobi Erner, a social worker for Queens Legal Services, told Bustle, adding, "Survivors shouldn't be punished because the actions of their abuser has created a crisis in their lives. Escaping an abusive situation is a process, and this process takes time, energy, resources, and planning."

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law, as he is a co-sponsor and was vocal in his support at a press conference last year. "No woman should have to decide between her safety and her paycheck," he said, according to HuffPost, noting that New York City Police Department receives one domestic violence report every two minutes. "That is an unacceptable state of affairs in the greatest city in the world, and we aim to change it."

Refinery 29 reports that, in May, de Blasio's administration announced that the city would invest $7 million "to better apprehend abusers as well as ensure support for survivors." A domestic violence task force convened last November to respond to the issue of domestic violence in New York City, which de Blasio called "disturbingly common."

The timing of the bill's passage is appropriate ,as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

 Cover image via Gregorio Koji / Shutterstock.com.

(H/T: Jezebel)

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