Monday, October 20, 2014

National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

On Monday, October 6th I was able to join Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, the Gloucester Police Department, the Gloucester Coalition for Prevention of Domestic Abuse, HAWC, the YWCA North Shore Rape Crisis Center, and others in recognizing the month of October as National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.  Outside of Gloucester City Hall we gathered to further bring awareness of the issue and to renew our commitment in making Gloucester a domestic violence free zone.

Sadly, a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) found that approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men in Massachusetts have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.  As a state, we must do better to combat domestic violence.

In July of this year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill to do just that.  The bill, S.2334, An Act relative to domestic violence, creates new criminal offenses, increases penalties, protects and empowers victims, and creates new employment rights within the workplace.  Specifically, the act, which was signed into law by Governor Patrick on August 8, 2014, includes:

·         The creation of a first offense domestic assault and battery charge on a family or household member punishable by imprisonment in a house of corrections for up to 2 ½ years and a fine of $5,000;

·         The creation of a felony charge of strangulation and suffocation punishable by imprisonment in a state prison by 5 years, or 2 ½ years in a house of corrections, and a fine of $5,000;

·         The standardization of records to be shared by law enforcement and the judicial system;

·         The further training of domestic violence programs for police, district attorneys, court, and medical personnel;

·         The delaying of bail for offenders by 6 hours to provide the victim with adequate time to relocate safely; and

·         The establishing of fees for domestic violence offenses, which will fund a newly created Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance account.

Additionally, the bill now requires places of business with 50 or more employees to allow up to 15 days of leave (paid or unpaid), to any employee who is a victim of domestic violence.  Employees can use that time to obtain medical attention, counseling, housing, protection orders, or legal assistance.

It is important that we continue to bring awareness to prevent these kinds of acts from happening, and to support those who may need help in addressing domestic violence.  To read more about the NISVS report, please click here.  To read the text of S.2334 in its entirety, please click here.