The 2011 SOAR/RICADV Legislative Agenda
The Rhode Island General Assembly is in session for 2011, and several bills have been introduced that are aimed at protecting the lives of Rhode Island victims of domestic violence and their children.
Our first priority is the Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill (H.5521-Coderre/S.335-Goodwin), which establishes a protocol for the Family Court in custody and visitation cases involving domestic violence. In our 2010 report “Safety for Children,” we found that survivors continue to experience emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse while in this system and that this abuse often extends to the children. This legislation will help to protect victims and their children throughout this process.
In addition there are three other bills that we are supporting:
The first of these bills (H.5264-Coderre/S.334-Goodwin) allows the crime of cyberstalking to be charged as a domestic violence crime. Prosecuting a crime as a domestic offense affords a victim enhanced protections including an automatic no-contact order issued upon arrest and the assistance of a victim advocate. As newer technologies develop and their use increases, we must ensure that our domestic violence laws protect victims by keeping up with technology.
The second bill (H.5087-DaSilva/S.217-DeVall) would make an assault where the victim is strangled a felony. Strangulation assaults are a sign of increasing violence in a relationship—a domestic violence victim who has been strangled at some point is nine times more likely to be killed—and currently these offenses are charged as misdemeanor simple assaults. This legislation addresses one of the top domestic violence lethality factors and is an important step toward decreasing the number of domestic violence fatalities in Rhode Island, which was at an all time high in 2010, with 13 lives lost.
The third priority (H.5261-Coderre/S.70-Crowley) calls for enhanced penalties for repeat domestic petty misdemeanor charges. Domestic disorderly conduct, the most prevalent domestic violence petty misdemeanor, was the second most common charge last year with over 2,000 charges, a 13% increase from 2009. This bill aims to capture the domestic violence cycle of abuse, holding abusers accountable for their repeat actions and threatening behavior.
For legislative updates or to find out what you can do to support SOAR/RICADV’s legislative priorities, please contact Carmen Recalde, SOAR Coordinator or Jessica Seitz, Legislative Coordinator, or visit our “Take Action" page.