SOAR actively supports the legislative and policy agenda of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV).
SOAR members testify at State House hearings, submit written testimony, and lobby RI legislators. We engage policymakers and criminal justice professionals to help them understand the dynamics of domestic violence and make sure our state systems properly and adequately serve victims of domestic violence.
SOAR members receive training on how to analyze legislation so that we can share our views and apply our experiences to inform the RICADV's agenda and then influence the state's decision-makers. It is critical that services, policies, and laws are trauma-informed and meet the needs of victims and their children.
SOAR is dedicated to advocating for legislation and policies that keep safety and justice for survivors at the center.
Major Projects & Accomplishments
In 2021, after years of advocacy from the RICADV, SOAR members and our partners at Homes RI, the “source of income” fair housing legislation passed. This legislation prohibits housing discrimination against those who receive government assistance to pay rent, such as Section 8 housing vouchers or other forms of economic supports or benefits, including child support. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children, and access to safe, affordable housing remains a top priority for SOAR.
- In 2021, the Rhode Island General Assembly included a 30% increase to the monthly RI Works benefit in the state budget, which had not been increased in 30 years. SOAR members provided testimony from their personal experiences, sharing how many survivor parents rely on this basic needs assistance to stay financially secure and safe after escaping an abusive situation with their children. Rhode Island will now be second-highest compared to neighboring states in New England in terms of the monthly benefit amount for families living in poverty, instead of last, where R.I. was before passing this much-needed increase.
- In 2019, the RI General Assembly passed legislation that protects children through restraining orders, regardless of their relationship with abusers. The law allows survivors to include any of their minor children in a Family Court restraining order, regardless of whether or not the children are related to an abuser by blood or marriage. The members of SOAR (Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships) brought this issue into the spotlight, and worked tirelessly to get this legislation passed the first year it was introduced. Powerful testimony and impactful conversations between SOAR members, advocates, volunteers, and lawmakers led to this bill’s passage.
- In 2016, the RI General Assembly passed legislation to establish the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund, Rhode Island's first dedicated state funding to stop domestic violence before it starts. Due in major part to SOAR's advocacy, the Prevention Fund was created through an additional $200,000 in the state budget. To learn more about the ways this funding is helping to prevent domestic violence in Rhode Island, visit www.ricadv.org.
- By 2013, after years of budget cuts to state services, the Domestic Violence Court Advocacy program, which serves over 8,000 victims annually, had experienced a 70% decrease in funding. In 2013, the program was forced to close its offices on Mondays, the first time in the program's 25-year history that advocates were not available when court was in session. Through its legislative advocacy and by participating in a powerful media campaign, SOAR helped lead us to a major victory, when the RI legislature agreed to restore $100,000 to the program.
In 2012, SOAR helped advocate for the passage of a bill that elevated strangulation to a felony crime in RI. Strangulation is one of the top-five lethality indicators for domestic violence homicides, and by playing an integral role in getting this legislation passed, SOAR helped RI take a step forward to save lives.
- In 2010, SOAR released the Safety for Children report, which presents data from 101 survivor surveys and outlines recommendations to improve Rhode Island’s Custody & Visitation system. The report led to SOAR providing training to Family Court judges, introducing legislation, and creating partnerships to help close gaps in the system. For more information and to view the full report, visit www.ricadv.org.
- In 2005, SOAR members played an instrumental role in passing the RICADV’s Homicide Prevention legislation. This legislation gives judges the power to take guns out of the hands of abusers who have permanent restraining orders against them. SOAR developed and implemented a grassroots awareness campaign to support the RICADV’s lobbying efforts.
- In June 2002, SOAR’s lobbying efforts helped pass a law that provides judges with specific guidelines when imposing child custody and visitation orders involving domestic violence issues.
- In 1999, after four years of work, SOAR successfully lobbied for a law that would allow judges to set standards for abusive partners in child custody and visitation cases.
- In 1997, SOAR members lobbied for legislation that would extend restraining orders from one year to three.
- In 1995, SOAR advocated for the safety of abused women by ensuring that new advancements in telephone technology did not endanger them