NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 2, 2013

Stats show need for domestic violence team

(Continued)

Before the team existed, according to crisis center officials, the lack of coordination between area resources left victims vulnerable. But by pooling resources and sharing information, communities, the court system and police departments are better able to identify high-risk victims.

It is that success that led state lawmakers, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and others to visit the center last Tuesday to learn more about that team and whether it can be replicated across the state.

Spurred by the shocking murder of a Waltham woman in August, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend, lawmakers are assessing current domestic violence laws to determine whether they need to be strengthened. Modifications to dangerousness hearings, which allows a judge to hold a defendant without bail if deemed a threat to society or a victim, and restraining orders are among the areas being reviewed.

At the same time, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill aimed at protecting the employment rights of domestic violence victims and increasing penalties for restraining order violations. The bill also makes strangulation a felony, and eliminates a provision that allows courts to dismiss charges if both parties agree in a written statement to drop charges.

Dubus called the bill a potential game-changer in terms of empowering victims and dissuading offenders.

“That is a big change and, of course, increased fines for strangulation is really important,” Dubus said.

According to Dubus, there’s a correlation between the number of high-risk cases and offenders who strangle their victims.

“There’s a lot of control in strangulation. Just the idea of putting your hands around someone’s throat and squeezing until they pass out and then releasing them before death, is a powerful statement for a victim,” Dubus said. “That tells them ‘I will tell you when you will die and when you live.’”

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