Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

Domestic violence is a silent plague in the United States, affecting around 10 million people a year. It often happens behind closed doors, and the shame and stigma surrounding it prevents many victims from speaking up or receiving the help they need.

Connecticut is certainly no exception. An upcoming bill in the Connecticut General Assembly, “S.B. 5: An Act Strengthening the Protections Against and Response to Domestic Violence,” takes crucial steps towards making our community a safer place for domestic violence victims and safeguarding the victim service providers that help them.

Alexa May Richards

Too often in cases of domestic violence, turning to authorities for help only increases the chances that victims might be subjected to abuse via retaliatory intimidation, and too often restraining orders are only enforced after they’ve been broken in a dangerous way.

To alleviate this issue, Connecticut launched a GPS tracking pilot program in 2011, designed to enforce restraining orders by tracking domestic violence offenders. S.B. 5 builds on this program by providing victims with a device that would notify the victim and law enforcement if their abuser has violated the restraining order and provides a live monitoring feature as well. This kind of GPS tracking has the ability to change restraining orders from a reactionary measure to a preventative measure.

Another important function of S.B. 5 is preventing victims of domestic violence from having to pay alimony to their abusers following a divorce. For victims exiting an abusive relationship, both physical and emotional space can be essential to moving forward with their lives. Having to pay alimony leaves a financial tie between victims and their abusers that allows abusers to hold a place in their victims’ lives that they do not deserve.

Additionally, it is morally reprehensible to force victims to pay money to someone who inflicted harm upon them. This section of S.B. 5 is long overdue and would release many victims from a financial responsibility that leaves them tied to their abusers.

Finally, one of the most imminently important functions of the bill is providing funding to services that were previously reliant on funding from the federal government. Starting in 1984, The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funded grants given out to a variety of victim services, most of which are non-profits, to allow them to carry out the necessary work in helping victims of crimes, including domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and child abuse.

The recent cuts of 50 percent of VOCA funding mean that most victim services providers will face major financial hurdles in trying to carry out their work. Staff cuts and lack of resources will impair these services and have the potential to leave many victims at risk and without the support they need. Passing Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed $13.175 million in funding would allow victims services like community advocates and the Connecticut domestic violence hotline to remain up and running.

This bill has the potential to protect victims of domestic violence now and in the future, and not passing it could leave so many victims in harm’s way.  In Connecticut, victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women and living in New Haven. As a woman and citizen of New Haven, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your representatives and urge them to pass this legislation that will help so many victims and the service providers they rely on, with the tools and funding necessary to create a safer Connecticut.

Alexa May Richards is a member of the Yale College Democrats.