Opinion: Confronting the surge in domestic violence homicides in NYC

Survivors need access to safe housing and community-based violence prevention.

Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As council members, women of color and survivors of domestic violence, we are alarmed by the sharp increase in domestic violence homicides. Everyone should be.  

Despite a general decline in violent crime, domestic violence homicides increased by 29% citywide between 2021 and 2022. The increase is even more alarming in the boroughs we represent: domestic violence homicides increased by 57% in the Bronx and 225% in Brooklyn.

These numbers are not mere statistics; they represent real lives – families and communities – that have been torn apart by violence. As survivors of domestic violence, we have experienced firsthand the impact that violence can have. Like a thief, domestic violence leaves its fingerprints on the lives of all those it touches.   

Children who are exposed to violence at a young age are more likely to experience violence in adulthood, as a victim or perpetrator. And violence in families and communities fuels more violence in those same families and communities, in a seemingly unending cycle passed down through generations.   

But domestic violence isn't simply a personal problem that happens behind closed doors; it is the single largest driver of family homelessness in New York City. In fact, more than 40% of all families in the Department of Homeless Services shelter system have experienced domestic violence. And it contributes to significantly higher healthcare costs, both to the survivor and to the state.

Our individual journeys through the shadows of violence have fueled our steadfast commitment to advocate for systemic solutions that address domestic violence in all communities, but particularly in communities like the ones we represent. While domestic violence does not discriminate, Black and Hispanic women continue to be victimized by domestic violence at rates far higher than that of the general public. And these women increasingly live in marginalized communities and are often invisibilized by some of the systems that are supposed to provide support.

We understand firsthand the challenges survivors face, from navigating complicated legal systems to seeking safe shelter for our families. Our insight informs our belief in the power of government to end the cycles that fuel generational violence.    

We must empower survivors, their families and their communities to lead conversations around solutions. At the same time, there are some fundamental truths that must drive these conversations.   

Survivors and their families need access to safe and stable temporary and permanent affordable and supportive housing. When they are ready to leave an abusive situation, there must be safe and affordable places for them to go.

From purpose-built shelter and enhancing access to vouchers for families experiencing homelessness and ending housing and source of income discrimination, we are committed to expanding access to safe, stable and affordable housing options across the continuum of care.   

Survivors, the majority of whom cite economic abuse as among the primary reasons that they stay in or return to abusive situations, need access to low-barrier economic support and financial advocacy and empowerment. And we can do that, with grants and direct cash assistance.

We are grateful that Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has committed to reducing domestic violence homicides by 30% and felony assaults by 20%.To do that, it is vital that we expand supportive services for survivors and their families, invest in healthy relationships and youth violence prevention education and work with those who have caused harm to break the cycles of violence.

Our shared experiences as survivors and legislators compel us to act not only in memory of those we have lost but also for those we can still save.  

This Women’s History Month, we ask our colleagues to join us as we work to end domestic violence. With investments in community-based violence prevention and supportive services, we can stop violence before it starts and ensure that home is synonymous with safety for everyone.

Diana Ayala is Deputy Speaker of the New York City Council and chair of the Committee on General Welfare. She represents East Harlem and parts of the Bronx. Farah Louis is chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity and co-chair of the Council Women’s Caucus. She represents parts of Flatbush and Midwood in Brooklyn.

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