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State Rep. Kathy Kennedy OP-ED: Helping Victims of Domestic Violence

Posted on October 15, 2021


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Helping Victims of Domestic Violence

By Rep. Kathy Kennedy

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Domestic violence is a serious violent crime that includes both physical and emotional abuse. It is frequently hidden from public view. Many victims suffer in silence, afraid to seek help or not knowing where to turn. The traumatic effects of domestic violence also extend beyond the abused person, impacting family members and communities. Children often witness the violence or become victims themselves. Stalking is a common and very dangerous tactic used by perpetrators of domestic violence and can pose challenges for victims seeking help.

In our part of Connecticut, we are lucky to have the Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence Services (UCDVS) which use a coordinated approach to offer services designed to break the cycle of violence, in a safe place, under one roof. The UCDVS 24/7 Crisis Hotline numbers are (203) 736-9944  and (203) 789-8104. Toll-free 1-888-774-2900.

In Connecticut, there is a statewide network of domestic violence programs that can be reached by calling the statewide domestic violence hotline, 1-888-774-2900. The programs provide shelter for victims of domestic violence, as well as counseling and other supportive services.

This year, the General Assembly passed new legislation to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence, click here to read https://www.cga.ct.gov/2021/ACT/PA/PDF/2021PA-00078-R00SB-01091-PA.PDF.

The new law, that I supported expands the definition of domestic violence to include non-physical violence or “coercive control,” which is a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom, autonomy and human rights. This new and expanded definition of domestic violence will now apply to all family court proceedings – restraining orders, divorce and custody cases.

The bill also establishes a new legal aid program to provide legal representation for victims of domestic violence who apply for restraining orders. And if a victim receives a restraining order, and rents her home, she now has the right to change her locks to keep her home safe. The bill also allows someone to be charged for a hate crime if they assault a person “in substantial part” because of their race, religion, country of origin or sexuality.

No person should ever be subjected to the fear, shame, and humiliation that an abusive relationship produces, and leaving these relationships is not easy. During this time of awareness, I hope everyone can take the time to learn how to best support a friend or family member looking to free themselves from abuse and help give a voice to those who suffer in silence.

As always, please contact me should you have any questions about this important issue or concerns on any other topics relating to state government at Kathy.Kennedy@housegop.ct.gov or at (800) 842-1423.