The Tragedy Of Domestic Violence

November 3, 2009

In a perfect world, no one would ever have anything to fear from a family member. Home would be a safe haven for everyone. And, the very idea of domestic violence would be unheard of.

It is a sad fact of life, though, that people cannot always feel safe with their families. Violence at the hands of family members is sufficiently prevalent that each October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in order to draw attention to the problem. As a concerned legislator, husband and father, I believe that everyone who might need help should know how to get it – and those of us fortunate enough to live in peaceful and loving households should know how to find help for our friends and neighbors who do not.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a group of 18 programs that provide a variety of confidential services across the state, operates a 24-hour toll-free domestic violence hotline (888-774-2900) and an informative website ( Among other things, the website urges those in immediate danger to call
9-1-1, and warns those who fear for their safety to avoid using a computer that can be monitored or hacked into by an abuser. The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers practical advice on its website for safety planning, restraining and protective orders, and locating local programs that provide necessary services, including emergency shelter.

You should also be aware that Connecticut has had domestic violence laws in place since 1977. According to a recent report by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Research, our original state law was designed to protect against spousal abuse by authorizing the courts to grant protective orders. In 1986, the General Assembly adopted comprehensive family violence legislation that, among other things, defines family violence, provides direction to the courts and police on handling cases, and requires the Judicial Department to maintain intervention units in each of its geographic areas. Connecticut’s domestic violence laws have been amended almost every year since 1986. The changes have been both civil and criminal in nature, and address a wide range of issues from defining family and household members for the purposes of state law to creating an address protection program.

This year, the General Assembly passed legislation that, among other things, directs the state Department of Social Services to seek federal and private funds to help programs that promote fathers’ positive involvement with their children. Also, we passed legislation this year to make unemployment compensation benefits available to those who quit their jobs to protect their children, spouses or parents from family violence.

Under state law, family violence is defined as an incident between family or household members that causes physical injury, or causes fear of physical injury. Family or household members are spouses; former spouses; parents and their children; people 18 or older related by blood or marriage; people 16 or older either living together or who have lived together; people who have a child together regardless of whether they are, or have been, married or lived together; and people who are in, or were recently in, a dating relationship. There is no separate crime of family violence, but crimes that may be charged as family violence offenses include assault, kidnapping, and sexual assault. Depending on the facts of the case, offenders may be charged with misdemeanors or felonies.

Victims of family violence, or those who are afraid they will become victims, can apply to Superior Court for a restraining order. The basic difference between a restraining and protective order is that a restraining order is civil and can be issued without arresting the accused, while a protective order is criminal and is issued after the accused has been arrested for committing a family violence crime.

Family and domestic violence is a tragedy that we must deal with as members of a law-abiding, peace loving society. Personally, I believe that the best advice caring friends and families can offer victims, or potential victims, of domestic violence is to immediately seek help and safety. We, as their relatives and friends, should be ready to do everything in our power to help – and if we suspect the existence of family or domestic violence, we should make known our concern and willingness to help.

As always, I encourage my constituents to share their concerns and ideas. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421, or via e-mail to [email protected].

Senator Rob Kane represents the 32nd Senatorial District, which includes the communities of Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Middlebury, Oxford, Seymour, Southbury, Thomaston, Roxbury, Watertown and Woodbury