Markey, Legislature Pass Bill Enhancing Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence
(BOSTON) – On Tuesday, State Representative Christopher M. Markey (D- Dartmouth) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing S1897, “An Act enhancing protection for victims of domestic violence”, by a unanimous vote. The bill, if enacted, would address issues relating to domestic violence such as education, prevention and prosecution.
As the House Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor, Representative Markey, whose district includes all of Dartmouth and portions of New Bedford, worked closely with House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D- Winthrop) to ensure that the bill, filed originally in the Senate, was strong enough but also passed constitutional muster. “We have a responsibility to protect victims of domestic violence and, if possible, prevent such violence from occurring,” said Markey. “These are crimes that can shake the foundations of families, are generally committed against women and for too long have been looked at in the same light as other assaults. They are different and we as a society really can’t afford to treat them the same.”
A significant component of the legislation is focused on education, both for individuals and families who may be at risk and also for service providers and members of the law enforcement and judicial community who see domestic violence cases and incidents. The bill directs health care related boards of registration, such as nurses, doctors and social workers, to develop and implement standards for lincensure that require training and education on domestic violence. Additionally, the bill requires that trial court personnel be trained on biannual basis to understand warning signs, lethality factors, methods of information sharing, and the availability of support services for victims of domestic violence. It also calls for domestic training to be a part of mandatory, periodical in-service training for municipal police. “When it’s a matter of life and death, finding out the truth behind an incident is crucial, and these educational pieces will provide much-needed assistance to our law enforcement and judicial personnel,” Markey added. The bill also requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop materials on domestic violence and teen dating.
Markey also pointed to components of the bill that would both provide for increased protection for victims and sufficient time for investigators, including the 6 hour delay in admitting a person to bail and the requirement that the Commonwealth move to arraign a suspect of within 3 hours of a complaint made to a magistrate. “Six hours is the longest we can constitutionally hold someone without bail and, while some people may think six hours isn’t enough time, a great deal of important investigation can be done during that ‘cooling off period’ that can help hash out the particulars of the case,” Markey stated. “Speaking from the perspective of a former prosecutor, time is an indispensible tool in performing a proper and thorough investigation. This gives our district attorneys a very powerful tool.”
The legislation, which now moves on to the Senate, creates a first offense of domestic assault and battery, and increases criminal penalties for those found committing domestic violence against the elderly or disabled. Additionally, police log entries related to domestic violence will be kept in separate log, as reports of rape and sexual assault are currently maintained. “We must constantly work to protect the most vulnerable among us, and we must do everything we can to prevent victims from being victimized again by a lack of confidentiality,” Markey said. The bill was passed in the wake of high-profile domestic assault cases, including alleged abuses and homicide committed by Jared Remy, now being tried in Middlesex Superior Court and, while Markey shares the outrage expressed by many about such high-profile cases, his impetus in working to pass the bill was, according to Markey, “for the victims you will never read about in the paper and the ones who will never make the evening news. There are too many innocent people who have felt threatened and have been violated by these kinds of crime. Rather than stigmatize them, we need to help them. Moreover, while we work to protect victims, we need to make sure that this kind of violence doesn’t happen in the first place.”