‘Jennifer’s Law’ advocates urge broader definition of domestic violence
There is a renewed push to pass legislation to redefine how cases of domestic abuse are handled in Connecticut family court.
The bill, named after Jennifer Dulos, was first introduced after police arrested her estranged husband and charged him with murder.
State Sen. Alex Kasser proposed "Jennifer's Law" last winter, but a hearing on the issue was delayed due to the pandemic. She committed to bringing it forth again during a news conference in Greenwich.
“This legislation would correct a loophole in the current law by including coercive control in the legal definition of domestic violence,” she said. “It allows family court judges to recognize and issue a protective order for a victim, even if she has not yet been physically assaulted.”
The state senator says coercive control includes psychological abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and legal abuse – which she says Jennifer Dulos was a victim of.
Jennifer Dulos is presumed dead after she disappeared in May 2019. Police believe her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, killed her. The two had been going through a bitter divorce and custody battle.
In court documents, Jennifer Dulos repeatedly told a Stamford family court judge she was afraid of her husband and alleged multiple examples of threatening behavior. But the current law narrowly defines domestic abuse as physical violence.
Kasser was joined by the group Connecticut Protective Moms, and Jennifer's close friend Carrie Luft to push for a broader definition that would apply to custody proceedings and applications for restraining orders.
“Jennifer Farber Dulos would never have wanted to be in the public eye or for her tragedy to be in any way elevated above that of others but she would've wanted to do everything in her power to help others in abusive situations to live free from fear,” said Luft.
A similar bill was recently passed in California and Hawaii. The renewed push coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.