Polito, council release report on domestic violence law implementation
By State House News Service | December 10, 2015, 6:29 EDT
STATE HOUSE — More than a year after the Legislature passed a domestic violence prevention law, more than three-quarters of the new law’s provisions have been fully implemented, according to a new report.
The Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence — reconstituted earlier this year by Gov. Charlie Baker and chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito — released an assessment of the law’s implementation on Wednesday.
The council reported that 34 of the laws 47 “actionable sections” have been fully implemented since the law was signed by former Gov. Deval Patrick last August, including some provisions that went into effect immediately and others that were delayed as late as June.
“Often times many great things are passed, but if they’re not implemented they won’t work in a way that’s really intended to help people,” Polito said.
Some of areas that still require work include updating domestic violence guidelines created in 2009 and used to train police, establishing state and local domestic fatality review teams, establishing a Department of Public Health grant program to assist victims of violence, and developing educational materials on domestic and teen dating violence to distribute to high school students.
“There’s been a tremendous attention to the many, many details in this law. It’s a complicated set of requirements,” said Debra Robbin, executive director of Jane Doe Inc.
Robbin some items left on the to-do list are “really not the most pressing items” in the bill, and she said she’s been “very pleased and confident in the administration’s attention to these issues.”
Jane Doe, Inc. – the group behind the state’s White Ribbon Day domestic violence awareness campaign – reported on Wednesday that 24 deaths in 2015 have been attributed to domestic violence across the state, including 12 women, two men, seven perpetrators who committed suicide and one bystander. Over the past decade 343 deaths have resulted from episodes of domestic violence in Massachusetts.
The report notes the law did not include any appropriations of money to help implement the bill, but the council did not make any specific recommendations for funding.
Polito said the council would continue to monitor the funding issue.
The council also noted that the current funding available to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for domestic violence prevention comes through the DPH budget and is earmarked for grant programs, not the development of educational materials. The council said it was working with DPH and the education department “to explore different prevention strategies and funding options.”
Many of the major components of the law have already been implemented with the support of the Trial Court, including the creation of new crimes for strangulation or domestic assault and battery on a family member, a prohibition on visiting rights for a parent convicted of a rape that led to the conception of the child, employment leave of up to 15 days for victims of domestic violence, a six-hour cooling off period before an alleged domestic violence offender can be released on bail, and a ban dropping domestic violence cases in exchange for compensation to the victim.
“The next step for our councilors and for all the stakeholders is to measure it to really see what impact it will have on victims, on survivors, on batterers and on the whole court system acting literally as a team so that there’s no wrong door for anyone who is experiencing violence in their lives,” Polito said.
The law immediately established a new $50 fee assessed on domestic violence offenders to be put into a special fund for prevention and victim assistance. Judges were given discretion to impose community service if the fee put too much of a financial burden on the defendant, and so far the state has collected $3,785 in fines.
“I think the part that’s working is the full attention and awareness of the issue and the commitment that the Trial Court, that the district attorneys, that the advocacy groups and municipal chiefs have all given to this and the recognition that, first of all, it was needed,” Polito said.
To read the full report, click here.
— Written by Matt Murphy
Copyright State House News Service