The Rockland County District Attorney's Special Victims Unit is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all cases involving domestic violence, rape, elder abuse, child abuse, Internet crimes against children, violations of orders of protection and sex offender registration violations. The mission of the Unit is to aggressively pursue justice on behalf of our most vulnerable victims and to hold criminals accountable, while being sensitive to the unique needs and dynamics associated with these types of challenging cases.

The unit is headed by a highly experienced Special Victims prosecutor with specialized knowledge and training necessary to protect victims who by age, or by the nature of the crimes committed against them, require special attention. The SVU also handles cases involving those with developmental and/or mental disabilities, as well as those who are victims of human trafficking for sex and labor.

Prosecutors in the Special Victims Unit are assisted by specially trained advocates and social workers and work collaboratively with police, Child Protective Services, probation and forensic medical professionals to enhance prosecutions and minimize further trauma to victims during the legal process.

Domestic Violence

The Rockland County District Attorney's Office aggressively prosecutes all domestic violence crimes. Domestic violence is defined as an act of violence, or threat to commit an act of physical violence, against one's spouse, former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, present or former boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancée/fiancé, or other parent of a child in common. These types of cases require special expertise and sensitivity. District Attorney Zugibe has assigned a team of veteran prosecutors and investigators with extensive experience to prosecute these cases from filing to sentencing. Assistant District Attorney's (ADA's) are assisted by specially-trained advocates and social workers and collaborate with local police departments, Child Protective Services, probation and medical professionals to enhance prosecutions and minimize further trauma to victims during the legal process. It is a goal of the RCDA to provide comprehensive and ongoing support to victims of domestic crimes as their case moves through the criminal justice system.

Elder Abuse

If you are a senior who has been the victim of a crime, or if you know someone over sixty who has been abused, the Rockland County District Attorney's Office has specially-trained staff to investigate and prosecute cases involving elderly residents. Typical cases of elder abuse include:

  • Domestic abuse or neglect at the hands of a partner, family member or caregiver
  • Financial exploitation committed by a stranger, relative, companion or home aide or other professional providing services to a senior
  • Virtual evictions by drug dealers who take over an elderly person's residential or commercial premises

Crimes Against Children

When a child is abused or neglected, it is the objective of the Rockland County District Attorney to bring care and healing to them as soon as possible, with a minimum of trauma. A unified approach to the investigation, examination and prosecution of the child abuse perpetrator is paramount. Cases handled by specially-trained prosecutors ensure that young victims and their families do not become victimized a second time through the legal process itself. The Rockland County District Attorney's Office investigates and prosecutes all felony crimes involving the physical and sexual abuse of children under the age of 17. Assistant District Attorneys experienced in dealing with young victims also prosecute cases including the possession and dissemination of child pornography and the luring of children into sexual activity on the Internet. The RCDA is also responsible for the prosecution of all cases involving sex offender registration violations.

Sex Crimes

The Assistant District Attorneys who prosecute sex crimes committed in Rockland County exhibit sensitivity to the issues unique to survivors of these crimes. Victims of rape, sexual abuse and other criminal sexual acts are eased through the criminal justice process with the full support of qualified advocates and social workers. By responding to sex crimes at the earliest stage, ADA's establish a supportive relationship with victims and ensure that offenders are held accountable for the heinous crimes they have committed.

Assistant District Attorneys trained in the specialized aspects of sex crimes will work directly with victims on an immediate plan for safety. A safety plan is a tool which enables victims to assess their options and try to reduce their risk of further abuse.

Mandated Reporting

Certain professionals are required by law to report suspected child abuse and the neglect and abandonment of vulnerable adults in New York State. These Mandated Reporters are persons who, as a result of their profession, are more likely to be aware of abuse or neglect of children, the disabled and the elderly. Mandated Reporters include teachers, child care workers, physicians and nurses. The law also assigns civil and criminal liability to those professionals who do not comply with their Mandated Reporter responsibilities. The standard for reporting suspected abuse and neglect is "reasonable cause to believe," which means that Mandated Reporters need only a "mere suspicion" that abuse or neglect was committed against a victim. Reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment means that, based on rational observations, professional training and experience, one has a suspicion that the parent or legal guardian is responsible for harming that child or placing the youngster in imminent danger of harm.

Reporting abuse does NOT necessarily result in the child or children being removed from parental custody. Once a report is filed, the child and family may become eligible to receive a wide variety of services that will improve the family's ability to care for the child. The family may be provided parenting classes, counseling, and treatment for substance abuse, medical services, anger management education and other services designed to meet the family's specific needs.

Additionally, Mandated Reporters must help to prevent and stop abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults by reporting suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities. Special victims prosecutors in the Rockland County District Attorney's Office work with law enforcement, educators, community and religious leaders to remove the stigma often associated with mandated or voluntary reports of suspected abuse or neglect made in good faith.

Victims of abuse may have intense feelings of fear, possible rejection, shame and guilt. By working together with Mandated Reporters, the Rockland County District Attorney's Special Victims Unit can better protect our most vulnerable population.

Fact sheet about Mandated Reporting (PDF)

Telephone numbers to report abuse or maltreatment:
Mandated Reporter (800) 635-1522
Public Hotline (800) 342-3720

Developmental Disabilities

The Rockland County District Attorney's Office promises aggressive and effective investigations and prosecutions of crimes against individuals with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. A collaborative effort between criminal justice professionals, social service providers, community groups, and consumers themselves ensures ongoing support and protection for some of the most vulnerable victims in our county. Assistant District Attorneys with specialized knowledge and training work to make sure crime victims with developmental disabilities and their families not become victimized a second time through the legal process itself. The Rockland County District Attorney's Office realizes that all people with developmental disabilities have significant abilities as well as disabilities and should be treated as able people.

One of the major concerns in the cases handled by the Special Victims Unit is that the victims and their families not become victimized a second time through the legal process itself. Subjecting a vulnerable crime victim to the exposure, humiliation, and stress of sharing sometimes shameful experiences with investigators, medical personnel and the public can be experienced by these victims as a re-creation of the pain of the initial event.

The "Spirit of Rockland" Special Victims Center

Under the leadership of District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe, the "Spirit of Rockland" Special Victims Center officially opened in June 2011. The 3,000-square foot facility - made possible by the remarkable generosity of local businesses, labor organizations and private citizens - fully supports special victims as their cases move through the criminal justice system.

3 photos showing the interior of the Special Victim's Center

Located on the campus of Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, the Special Victims Center provides proper care and support to crime victims with special needs. By partnering prosecutors, law enforcement, advocacy, medical and mental health and social service agencies in one, secure location, victims are assured that all available resources are brought to bear against the offenders responsible for the heinous crimes.

In 2012, 155 child and adult victims were referred to the SVC, a 20% increase over 2011. In many of the cases, young victims provided videotaped testimony for Grand Jury purposes, eliminating the need to face their attacker in the courtroom.

The Center features a bright and modern space for prosecutors and police, the Department of Social Services and victims advocates. There are also interview rooms, a group/conference room and an examination room, so that all legal, social and medical services can be provided in a separate, comfortable and safe environment.

The one-of-a-kind facility was designed and constructed free of charge, at no cost to local taxpayers. In addition, Good Samaritan is providing rent-free use of the space.

See also: New York State Sex Offender Registry