State lawmakers consider several bills aimed at protecting domestic violence abuse victims
Connecticut lawmakers are considering several bills designed to protect the victims of sexual and physical abuse.
Domestic violence advocates testified at the state Capitol Monday saying they're looking for an end to the vicious cycle.
"When children grow up in homes where there's violence and abuse, they believe that's the norm. They believe that's the way life is lived," said Mary Jane Foster, president and CEO of Interval House. "Until we fully acknowledge and are aware of this issue, until we provide the necessary resources to break the cycle, we will not move the numbers."
A bill presented to the Judiciary Committee would spend $1.4 million in state funds to hire a full time child and family advocate at each of the state's 18 crisis centers.
"Connecticut does not currently provide any state funding to pay for this critical role. Federal pass-through funds pay for only about a quarter of the cost of a full time advocate at each site," said Liza Andrews, of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The bill would also protect victims from workplace discrimination, including when getting their lives back means taking time off.
"In order to address the abuse and keep themselves and their kids safe, victims may need time to make court appearances, obtain legal and medical assistance, and find a new place to live," said Andrews.
Also hotly debated Monday was a bill that would require social workers' reports on a possible domestic violence case to be shared with the defense before an arraignment. Public defenders say it's only fair.
"In order to either defend against it or at least be at knowledge of what's provided against our client. Under due process, anything that goes to the court should go to the defense," said Deborah Del Prete Sullivan, legal counsel, from the Office of the Public Defender.
But advocates say that disclosure could add fuel to an abuser's fire and make victims more reluctant to speak out.
"If they know it's going to the defendant, they're not going to tell. They're terrified of their attacker," said President and CEO of Network Against Domestic Abuse Karen Foley O'Connor.
Lawmakers also heard testimony Monday on a bill that would offer a definition for sexual consent in the state and one that would make it a crime to "groom" children online for a sexual relationship.