The Herald Bulletin

October 27, 2012

Legislation comes a long way, but more change needed

Laws help domestic violence response

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — In 1980, domestic violence wasn’t a crime.

But awareness of abusive relationships was becoming more prevalent. Volunteers and staffers working with local domestic violence shelters and organizations were swamped in responding to the crises they faced every day. At best, the groups tried to ensure that victims were safe and had food, shelter and legal support.

So the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) was founded in part to establish an initiative to lobby for continued financial support for the shelters and organizations and to enact needed legislation to protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable and prevent domestic violence, said ICADV Director Laura Berry.

Each year the Indianapolis-based organization sets its legislative priorities based on year-round discussions with its members and legislators to see what needs are out there and what is going on in the field.

For 2013, ICADV has three legislative objectives — foremost it will make sure certain funding is included in the general budget to support domestic violence services statewide with hopes of offering increases. Berry said that slight increases are needed as they’ve seen an upturn in demand for services and that local programs are experiencing donor fatigue.

The second objective has been to support a proposal by state Rep. Linda Lawson, a Democrat from Hammond, that would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who obtain an order of protection against an abusive spouse or boyfriend. Some employers would tend to fear for their other employees’ safety if it was known there was a worker who was trying to protect herself from a potential attacker. The legislation would protect an employee from being fired or experience a reduction in pay or duties.

In a fatal domestic violence incident in Pendleton on July 26, Claudia Bailey was granted a protective order from her estranged husband, Kenneth Bailey, hours before he confronted her at her Pendleton home and shot and killed passer-by Neal Shull and injured three police officers in a shootout. He had threatened to come to her work and kill her coworkers there; so her work was included as a protected place in the order.

The third legislative priority is to require that court-appointed special advocates or a guardian ad l item undergo domestic violence education. Such classes would help advocates identify better with a victim’s plight.

Some of the legislative changes she has seen made by working with legislators statewide include creating laws making domestic battery its own crime (PASSED IN??), making strangulation a Class D felony, allowing officers to make warrantless arrests in cases of domestic violence, increased funding for domestic violence programs. Also, she’s seen legislation protecting victims civilly in regards to domestic violence, a requirement that those sent for Batter’s Intervention Program to go to a certified trainer, the creation of domestic violence fatality review legislation, the elimination of fees associated with filing protective orders and recognition of out-of-state protective orders, among other advances.

State Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he’s been a part of a several pieces of important domestic violence legislation including some as an author. In 2002, the General Asembly authorized the confiscation of firearms by law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence situations as well as ammunition and deadly weapons found at the scene. The following year, a law was passed to prohibit someone convicted of domestic violence to possessing a firearm.

In more recent years, Lanane said work has been done to help improve the protective order process and those filing those orders and the creation of the Indiana Protective Order Registry.

Lanane was a coauthor on Heather’s Law which requires the inclusion of dating violence curriculum, giving an education component to domestic violence legislation.

“Domestic violence has been an issue we’ve dealt with for a number of years,” he said. “We need to continue to look at the issues though because unfortunately, there were 62 domestic violence deaths in Indiana from July 1, 2011 through June 30. We need to try to find ways to stop it.”

Lanane said looking at implementation of Heather’s Law may be important and may require more funding to go to the schools via grants. However, the viability of the protective order registry may need tweaking, he said, stressing that those records should be as accessible as possible for law enforcement.

Current U.S. congressman Mike Pence, R-Ind., said domestic violence and sexual assault are serious issues that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“For that reason, in Congress I supported the recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which includes enhanced tools for law enforcement to arrest abusers and those who violate protection orders,” he said. “It also increases penalties for sexual assault and abuse, funds programs to aid domestic violence victims seeking refuge from their abusers, and promotes awareness in an effort to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place.”

State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson said the state has passed a number of enhanced provisions for victims of domestic violence. She was the author of the state’s first human trafficking law as well as being involved in helping pass legislation protecting victims from discrimination, ensuring victims aren’t terminated from jobs and are eligible for unemployment.

But she said that there is always more that can be done.

“A lot of people still don’t acknowledge or understand all facets of domestic violence,” she said.

One change she thinks could be effective would be launching a domestic violence court. She said the “problem solving courts” that Madison County and other areas have enacted like drug court and veterans court, have shown success.

“It brings home the point that some of the traditional criminal justice interventions may or may not be the most effective pathway.”

Austin said an improved economy would most certainly help as well as violence is more common in times of financial distress. And a strong economy could help provide victims with a way to escape domestic violence situations by providing a pathway to support themselves and their children.

“Making sure that both men and women have the opportunity for good paying, reliable jobs that allow them to have some family stability is important,” she said.

Legislators have provided judges with several tools to use — GPS tracking for those convicted of domestic violence, strict bail conditions, Batterer’s Intervention Program — and now they have to be sure that judiciary is using all the tools at their disposal, Austin said.

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.