The final days of October marked the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence and sharing resources to assist victims and survivors. Women disproportionately experience domestic violence – an issue that not only affect the health and safety of women, but also permeates into the workforce by affecting productivity, jeopardizing the safety of victims and co-workers, and increasing absenteeism and employee turnover. Research estimates that the average lifetime cost of intimate partner violence for women is $103,767, and between 94 and 99 percent of victims and survivors of domestic violence have also experienced economic abuse, such as their abuser maintaining control over financial resources or preventing a victim or survivor from working to create financial dependency.
And while Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended, the work to end domestic violence must continue beyond October, and year round, we must lift up and support programs and community organizations that support the physical and mental health needs of victims and survivors. Legislative action is an extremely effective tool to secure protections for survivors of domestic violence, and it is crucial that our state lawmakers prioritize bills that would make strides towards this goal.
Last week, members of the Ohio Democratic Women’s Legislative Caucus (ODWLC) announced a package of bills, many with bi-partisan support, that would address key issues surrounding domestic violence and provide legislative solutions to address the issue and support survivors and victims. At the press conference, ODWLC Chair Representative Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) spoke to the Caucus’ goal, explaining that, “In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Women’s Caucus is uniting to fight for our sisters, and put an end to domestic violence.”
Their announcement of key legislative priorities to address domestic violence comes off the heels of recent success in the legislature of securing funding in the state operating budget for domestic violence programs. Previously, Ohio has been one of the few states that did not allocate any general revenue funding to domestic violence programs. The budget bill included a line to allocate $1 million per fiscal year ($2 million for the biennium) to domestic violence programs from the steady source of general revenue. Mary O’Doherty, the Executive Director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, joined the lawmakers at the press conference to share the impact that this state funding will have on their ability to better respond to the needs of victims and survivors in communities across the state.
The Women’s Caucus identified this package of bills as essential to building on the progress of the state budget allocation for domestic violence programs, and urged their fellow state legislators to address legal shortfalls and prioritize responding to the needs, wants, and rights of victims and survivors. Each specific piece of legislation within the package creates essential protections for victims and survivors in all areas of life, and this bill package as a whole will provide greater protections and support for women, build stronger communities, and ensure safer homes for children and families across the state. The package of bills includes:
1. Senate Bill 19 (Williams) – Protection Orders: Enacts the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which would allow family members, household members, and law enforcement officers to obtain a court order temporarily restricting a person from having access to firearms if that person is deemed a danger to themselves or others. The bill has received one committee hearing for sponsor testimony in the Senate Government Oversight & Reform Committee in September.
2. Senate Bill 43 (Kunze, Antonio) – Domestic Violence: Addresses domestic violence by enhancing penalties and restricting firearms from convicted perpetrators. The bill also prohibits strangulation against a family or household member or dating partner. The bill has received one hearing for sponsor testimony in the Senate Government Oversight & Reform Committee in April.
3. Senate Bill 162 (Antonio, O’Brien) – Sex Offenses: Eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of a person for rape and eliminates the spousal exceptions for sex offenses. Ohio currently requires a victim or survivor of a sex crime to bring charges against the abuser within 25 years of the crime. Additionally, there still exists certain exceptions in the Ohio code where a person is unable to prosecute rape or sexual abuse if they are married to the perpetrator, and this bill would close that “spousal rape” loophole. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September, but it has not received any committee hearings yet.
1. House Bill 3 (Boyd, Carruthers) – Aisha’s Law: Addresses high-risk domestic violence cases by adding DV circumstances to the offenses of aggravated murder and endangering children. The bill would also establish local domestic violence high-risk teams and require law enforcement officers to utilize a screening tool to assess high-risk situations and refer high-risk victims to a local team. The bill has received three hearings in the House Criminal Justice Committee (two in May and one in June).
2.House Bill 279 (Boggs, Galonski) – Sex Offenses: Eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of a person for rape and eliminates the spousal exceptions for sex offenses. Ohio currently requires a victim or survivor of a sex crime to bring charges against the abuser within 25 years of the crime. Additionally, there still exists certain exceptions in the Ohio code where a person is unable to prosecute rape or sexual abuse if they are married to the perpetrator, and this bill would close that “spousal rape” loophole. The bill was referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee in June, but has not received any committee hearings yet.
3.House Bill 335 (Lepore-Hagan, Boyd) – Protection Order: Requires that a person who is the subject of a civil or criminal domestic violence temporary protection order to surrender their firearms. The bill was referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee in September, but has not received any committee hearings yet.
4.House Bill 351 (Sobecki, Lepore-Hagan): Allows a tenant who is a victim or survivor of abuse to terminate lease without financial penalty if they can demonstrate to landlord possession of court protection order. The bill was referred to the House Civil Justice Committee in October, but has not received any committee hearings yet.
In addition to these bills, the members of the Women’s Caucus also previewed a handful of bills that they would be introducing in the near future, including legislation from Representative Boggs that would allow for victims and survivors of domestic violence to have excused absences from work in order to file a protection order. This bills will allow for victims and survivors who need to file a protection order for their safety without risking their job or economic security.
This comprehensive package of bills offers sweeping support and protections for survivors and victims of violence, and a number of the bills would address patch existing holes in the legal system, stopping abuse at the first red flag and aiming to stopping tragedy in its tracks. You can watch the full video of the press conference here. More information about the full package of bills is available here.
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