Domestic violence victims need legislation passed
July 30, 2014
Hundreds of victims of sexual and domestic violence reach out to programs daily seeking support, resources and safety. Massachusetts is poised to pass two critical pieces of legislation that would vastly improve systems’ ability to respond to those needs and enhance community safety: An Act to Enhance Protections for Domestic Violence Victims (H4038 and S1897)and An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence (H4285 and S2265).
We urge the passage, at minimum, of the following key priorities present in both the Senate and House bill versions of An Act to Enhance Protections for Domestic Violence Victims: employment leave for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking; creation of strangulation and suffocation offense; exemption of domestic violence cases from accord and satisfaction agreements; and creation of the offense of assault and battery of a family or household member.
Together these provisions will improve our victim-centered response to sexual and domestic violence. Requiring larger employers to provide individuals with workplace leave to address victim needs after sexual or domestic violence will assist with economic security. Criminal justice measures will more strongly hold offenders accountable.
We also urge the Legislature to close loopholes in existing gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of perpetrators. Important provisions exist in both the House and the Senate versions of An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. However, the Conference Committee must adopt House language, removed from the Senate bill that provides for police chief discretion in the issuing of FID cards for rifles and shotguns, which already exists with regard to handguns.
Every day we hear from victims and survivors who are threatened, intimidated, and traumatized by perpetrators with guns. Firearms and sexual and domestic violence are a deadly combination. The presence of guns in a domestic violence incident increases the likelihood of death six fold. In Massachusetts between 2003 and 2012, 37 percent of all domestic violence homicide victims were killed with a firearm. Nationally, guns are used in over half of domestic violence homicides.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a shotgun, rifle or a handgun.
The Legislature has the opportunity to take meaningful action that will make a difference in Massachusetts. We can prevent sexual and domestic violence and both save and improve the lives of sexual and domestic violence victims, our children, our friends, neighbors and loved ones. The time to act is now.
Maureen Gallagher, Policy Director, Jane Doe Inc.
Patricia Kelleher, Executive Director, Family and Community Resources, Inc.
Julia Kehoe, President and CEO, Health Imperatives
Sue Chandler, Executive Director, DOVE, Inc.