New York Establishes Domestic Violence Advocate-Victim Privilege

New York State has passed new legislation to protect the victims of domestic abuse. On Monday, Governor Cuomo signed bill (S.1789/A.2520), establishing a domestic violence advocate-victim privilege that prevents advocate’s from disclosing any communication between themselves and their clients.

“Of the many societal ills laid bare during this pandemic, the scourge of domestic violence is among the ugliest,” Governor Cuomo said. “Conversation between a domestic violence survivor and an advocate should be a safe space and I’m proud to sign this measure that puts this standard in place.”

This legislation amends the Civil Practice Law and Rules to prohibit a domestic violence advocate in a licensed domestic violence program from sharing communications made by a client, unless authorized by the client. Disclosure is now only permitted if a client reveals intent to commit a crime or a harmful act, or if their case involves suspected child abuse or maltreatment. Clients or their conservators may waive their new privilege, but the rape crisis counselor or domestic violence advocate must provide “written, informed and time-limited consent.”

Senator James Sanders Jr, one of the bill’s early sponsors stated “establishing in the law a domestic violence advocate-victim privilege is long overdue to help address domestic violence by promoting safety, healing and justice for its victims.”

“Victims of domestic violence should be able to speak freely with domestic violence counselors without fear of reprisals or discovery by their abusers” added Assemblywomen Helene Weinstein, another advocate for the legislation. “Domestic violence should be met with common-sense ways to help victims, and this bill does just that.”