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EDITORIAL: Domestic violence registry could backfire

The risk of unintended consequences can lie buried in even the best intended legislation. That seems to have been the case with an attempt to curb domestic violence by using the Internet to publicize abusers. On the surface, it seems admirable. But advocates worry that it could actually hurt the victims.

The bill, primarily sponsored by Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), would set up a domestic violence registry on the Web, containing the names and other information on those convicted of an enumerated list of crimes.

But advocates fear that publicizing the offender will violate the privacy of their victims. They also say it could deter victims from reporting violence, because the notoriety could cause abusing partners to get fired and become unable to support them financially. Some women who've been victimized also say that a registry could cause their abusers to hurt them worse, in retaliation for the public shaming. Also, the law could violate the victim confidentiality provisions of the federal Violence Against Women Act and trigger a loss of federal funding.

So County Executive Steve Levy is vetoing the legislation and trying to work with Gregory on an alternate approach, to curb domestic violence without unintentionally hurting the victims. That's a wise choice. Suffering violence in the home is horrific enough without having to live with the unintended effects of a law aimed at helping. hN