Elected officials are beginning to understand the need for systemic change regarding domestic/intimate partner violence (IPV). In 2014, The Massachusetts Legislature passed SB 2334.
“I firmly believe that comprehensive action – examining existing loopholes, elevating criminal penalties and prioritizing prevention – is the only strategy that will result in systemic change.” – Speaker of the House Robert Deleo
The law is comprehensive and not without detractors, yet it addresses some of the more egregious remnants of lax laws and takes a bold step forward. The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, the state coalition against domestic violence Jane Doe, Inc., and domestic violence advocates throughout the state applaud the comprehensive legislation. Key provisions that will go into effect in 2015 include:
- Delaying bail for domestic violence offenders by six hours
- Levying charges and heightened punishment for strangulation and suffocation incidents
- Establishing Fatality Review Teams
- Expanded training for law enforcement and judges
- Allowing employee leave time for victims
The law will also get rid of “accord and satisfaction” agreements. Accord and satisfaction are out-of-court settlements used to resolve charges involving physical violence. Abusers tend to intimidate victims by pressuring them to accept this option.
The specific strangulation and suffocation charges are ground-breaking and necessary. According to the Journal of Emergency Medicine, 23% to 68% of female domestic violence victims experienced at least one strangulation-related incident from their abusive male partner during their lifetime. Research also bears out what victims, legal practitioners, and medical personnel already know – strangulation is one of the most potentially lethal forms of intimate partner abuse. Currently, charges run the gamut from misdemeanor simple assault to the impossible to prove attempted murder. A 2008 Journal of Emergency Medicine study found that a woman who experiences nonlethal strangulation — whether by someone’s hands or by ligature or other means — is seven times more likely to be the object of a murder attempt by her assailant. It also found that 43 percent of women killed in domestic violence attacks, and 45 percent of attempted-murder victims, had been strangled by a partner in the previous year.
This new law is a step in the right direction and demands specific collaborative efforts by employers, schools and civil courts. Injury prevention experts from the Centers for Disease Control, community health departments, academic research and the domestic violence field support the need for a community response.