Responding To Domestic Violence

June 16, 2010

The tragedy of domestic violence is a sad fact of life for far too many people across our world, across our nation and here in Connecticut. According to a report issued earlier this year by the Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence, at least 50,000 Connecticut residents are victims of domestic violence each year. Fortunately, Governor M. Jodi Rell recently signed newly passed legislation to step up Connecticut’s response to this problem by strengthening several criminal justice, social services and education programs.

I strongly supported adoption of House Bill 5497, An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ Task Force on Domestic Violence because it is a comprehensive response to this pervasive problem and, just as importantly, takes into consideration the recommendations and findings of domestic violence advocates, survivors, law enforcement officials, support service providers, and state agency officials. Not surprisingly, this reform bill was widely supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

When signing the bill, Governor Rell said that “It is essential we address the entire scope of family violence. This begins with understanding why it occurs, how best to protect victims in their most desperate moments and what steps we can take now to prevent future tragedies. These comprehensive reforms will help strengthen our domestic violence laws, which are already some of the toughest in the nation. We must continue to do all we can to keep families safe and give police, prosecutors and others the tools they need to respond effectively to this serious, devastating issue. There are far too many heartbreaking tales of needless, brutal and preventable tragedies involving domestic violence.”

Most provisions of the new law will take effect on October 1, 2010. Among other things, it will permit the state’s Judicial Branch to establish a pilot program to electronically monitor family violence offenders and directs the chief court administrator to apply for federal grants to fund it. Highlights of the new law include:

* Expanding the state’s persistent offender law for crimes involving assault, trespass, threatening, harassment, and violation of a restraining or a protective order by eliminating the limitation on the look-back period and allowing the court to consider convictions for essentially the same crimes in other states.

* Expands information and disclosure requirements for family violence intervention units, courts, and the state Department of Children and Families.
* Allows the chief court administrator to establish a domestic violence docket in three geographical areas.
* Makes changes in the law concerning restraining orders.

It is our responsibility as members of a law abiding society to do everything we can, as individuals and through the law enforcement and legislative system, to address domestic violence and assist the victims. I continue to believe that the best advice caring friends and families can offer victims, and potential victims, is to immediately seek help and safety. Valuable information for victims of domestic violence, and their friends and families, is available from the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV). CCDAV is the membership organization for the 18 domestic violence agencies that provide a variety of services across the state, including counseling, support services, and safe accommodations for victims and their children. CCADV advises anyone in immediate danger to call 9-1-1, and warns those who fear for their safety to avoid using a computer that may be monitored or hacked into by an abuser. With that in mind, helpful information is available on the CCADV website at or by calling the coalition’s confidential toll-free line at 1-888-774-2900.

As always, I urge constituents to contact me with their questions and concerns, or to discuss issues that are important to Connecticut. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421 or via e-mail to [email protected].