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Legislative and Community-Based Advocacy in Tompkins County, New York Seeking Recognition of Freedom from Domestic Violence as a Human Right

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Background Paper:


In collaboration with the Global Gender Justice Clinic and the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice has been advocating for the adoption of one or more local resolutions in Ithaca and Tompkins County recognizing freedom from domestic violence a human right. In October 2014, the Center drafted the proposed resolution and prepared an accompanying background paper that discusses the prevalence of domestic violence globally and locally, the challenges in responding to it, the legal and historical basis for recognizing freedom from domestic violence a human right, and the value of adopting the proposed resolution.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Center engaged with the wider Ithaca community through public education events organized by the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County and launched a petition to gather local support for the proposed resolution. The Center organized a film screening of "Telling Amy's Story" at Cornell Law School to raise awareness about the experience of domestic abuse, barriers for victims seeking safety, and the important role that all members of the community have in preventing future tragedies. The Center also organized a panel discussion with students of the Global Gender Justice Clinic and Advocacy Center of Tompkins County staff to discuss our efforts in seeking adoption of this resolution.

On November 18, 2014, the Tompkins County Legislature unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing that freedom from domestic violence is a fundamental human right. For more information about the adopted resolution, please click here. On December 8, 2014, the Ithaca Town Board followed and adopted a similar resolution. The following week, on December 17, 2014, the Lansing Town Board adopted a similar resolution. The Tompkins County Council of Governments additionally passed a resolution declaring freedom from domestic violence a human right on January 22, 2015. Lastly, the Ithaca Common Council passed another similar resolution on March 4, 2015. Nationwide, 24 county, town, and municipal governments have also recognized this right through resolutions.

The Center and Clinic will continue their advocacy efforts and focus on two strategies for implementing these resolutions to ensure direct and meaningful protections for survivors of domestic violence in our community. The Clinic will carry out these strategies in partnership with the Advocacy Center, the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights, and the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission.

The first strategy for implementation is the creation of domestic violence and the workplace guidelines and toolkit for government and private employers in Tompkins County. Working with its partners, the team will create a model policy informed by best practices and will facilitate the adoption of the guidelines by the bodies that passed resolutions and ultimately by private employers as well.

The second implementation strategy is to conduct a study of the current landscape of county, local, government, and community responses to domestic violence and delivery of services to survivors. 

News Coverage:

The Human Right to be Free from Domestic Violence: Panel Discusses Advocacy Projects in Tompkins County, Cornell Law School Spotlight, November 5, 2015

Community Engagement:

For a list of resolutions and proclamations that have been adopted by localities across the country, please click here for list. Community members interested in collaborating, please contact

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