CT House passes bill known as Jennifers’ Law, expanding definition of domestic violence in the state

Domestic Violence Awareness

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — State Senator Kasser reported Friday the bill known as Jennifers’ Law has been passed.

Sen. Kasser explained, “The law expands the definition of domestic violence to include non-physical violence or “coercive control,” which is a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom, autonomy, and human rights. This new and expanded definition of domestic violence will now apply to all family court proceedings – restraining orders, divorce, and custody cases.”

The bill also establishes a new legal aid program to provide legal representation for victims of domestic violence who apply for restraining orders.

RELATED: Domestic Violence bill heads to governor’s desk for signature but not without controversy


It is expected to come to a vote in the House of Representatives Friday.

“The Speaker of the House Matt Ritter told me personally on Tuesday that he was running it on Friday,” said Senator Alex Kasser, who first introduced the bill. “And then…he announced that publicly at a press conference.”

The bill, which Kasser calls “a game-changer ” was named after two women. One of them was Jennifer Dulos, the New Canaan mother who vanished in May of 2019. Her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, was charged with her death and disappearance. He later killed himself.

Back in 2017, Jennifer Dulos was denied emergency orders when she told Stamford court she was afraid for her safety and that of her five children.

A rally in her memory was held at the state Capitol Friday. A Lifetime movie about her premieres this weekend.

The bill is also named after Terryville resident Jennifer Magnano, who police said was killed by her husband in a murder-suicide. The focus of the bill is to expand the definition of domestic violence in civil law to include non-physical abuse or coercive control.

The bill passed in a 35-1 vote in the State Senate.

At the rally put on by Connecticut Protective Moms, they asked participants to wear purple. Supporters of the bill spoke with News 8.

Christine Cocchiola told us, “This is reality. This happens to women all the time. This abuse is covert and people live with it and they don’t even know they are experiencing it.”

State Sen. Alex Kasser explained, “This is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will protect survivors of domestic violence by understanding and reframing what domestic violence is to capture the full spectrum of abusive behaviors and give people the protection that they deserve. So they can be free and safe.”

This bill was combined with another bill that was more about restraining orders. She told me once it’s called she hopes supporters of the bill stand strong, regardless of what the opposition is or how long it takes to debate it. The bill is now called “An Act Concerning a Study of Criminal Laws of this State.”

“Personally, I don’t think there’s any debate,” Kasser said. “I don’t see how there can be any opposition, but, you never know.”

While the name Jennifers’ Law isn’t an official title, and it was inspired by two widely publicized cases, especially Dulos, it’s used more colloquially. Anyone and everyone can be a victim.

“We are all Jennifer, whether we are Black or white, male or female, urban, suburban, rich or poor. It does not matter,” Kasser added.

Passage of this bill would make Connecticut the third state in the nation to pass a similar law.

The legislative session ends Wednesday, June 9.

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