Massachusetts Legislature can make great strides against domestic violence –
Each and every day, hundreds of victims of sexual and domestic violence reach out to programs in need of support, resources and safety. Massachusetts is poised to pass two critical pieces of legislation that would help thousands of victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
Both legislative branches have included Jane Doe Inc.’s four priorities in their respective versions of An Act to Enhance Protections for Domestic Violence Victims (H4038 and S1897) and have passed very similar versions of An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence (H4285 and S2265).
We greatly appreciate the momentum—and the significant investment of time— by the Legislature around sexual and domestic violence and gun violence.
If neither of these bills is passed, important supports for victims and survivors, and improvements to our prevention and response systems, will remain unaddressed.
We strongly urge the passage, at minimum, of the following key priorities which are present in both the Senate and House bill versions of An Act to Enhance Protections for Domestic Violence Victims:
1) employment leave for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking;
2) creation of strangulation and suffocation offense;
3) exemption of domestic violence cases from accord and satisfaction agreements;
and 4) creation of the offense of assault and battery of a family or household member.
Taken together, these provisions will provide a range of important advances to better provide a victim-centered response to sexual and domestic violence.
While no piece of legislation will end every incident of gun violence or every incidence of sexual and domestic violence, we have the ability and opportunity with these bills to take meaningful action that will make a difference in Massachusetts and continue our national leadership on these critical issues.
We can prevent sexual and domestic violence and both save and improve the lives of sexual and domestic violence victims, our children, our friends, neighbors and loved ones. These two pieces of legislation are a step in the right direction. The time to act is now.
Maureen Gallagher, Policy Director, Jane Doe Inc.
Mary B. O’Brien, Executive Director, YWCA of Greater Lawrence