Murder-suicide prompts New York to examine domestic violence policies

New York State Office of the Inspector General

(NEW YORK) — Police arrived at a home in Selkirk, New York, just before 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2020 to find a husband and wife dead. Bhupinder Saran, 58, killed his wife, Sarbjit Saran, 58, and then took his own life, police said.

It was not the first time police had been to the home. A year earlier, officers were called to a domestic violence incident, and there had been an order of protection against the husband.

On Thursday, New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang revealed that Sarbjit Saran had informed her employer, the state’s information technology office, of the trouble at home, but she received no help — a violation of state domestic violence policies.

“When she reached out for help, it fell on deaf ears,” Lang said during a news conference in Albany.

“This investigation found that despite ITS’ awareness that its employee had reported that she was a victim of domestic violence, ITS did not follow its Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policy in a manner that was responsive to her needs as a victim or that promoted workplace safety,” the inspector general’s report said.

Incidents of violence, sexual violence and stalking increased in New York during the pandemic, when calls to the state’s domestic and sexual violence hotline increased 45%.

Lang called Sarbjit Saran’s death “an utter tragedy” and said she should have been able to count on her employer.

“She gave 30 years of her life to the state,” Lang said. “So much of what happened here is that warning signs were disregarded, and that is a failure of education, a failure of training and a reason why domestic violence has for years existed outside the public sphere.”

Lang announced her office would audit every state agency to make sure they understand their obligations when an employee mentions being the victim of violence by an intimate partner.

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