Governor Lamont signs “Jennifers’ Law,” expanding definition of domestic violence in CT

Domestic Violence Awareness

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A bill known as “Jennifers’ Law”, which expands the definition of domestic violence in Connecticut, is now law.

Monday, Governor Ned Lamont signed SB-1091 into law after the State Senate passed it 35 to 1 followed by the State House who approved it 134 to 8.

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

State Sen. Alex Kasser, who has since resigned, introduced the bill in the Senate following the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos from New Canaan in 2019. Her goal is to expand the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control,” which is described as a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom, autonomy, and human rights.

RELATED: Connecticut lawmaker resigns state Senate, citing divorce

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

Connecticut Protective Moms emphasized that the bill protects everyone.

We are all Jennifer. Whether we are male or female, black or white, gay or straight, young or not so young, we are all susceptible to the abuse of power that can come from the people we trust the most.

This legislation declares that abuse of power inside a family or household is unacceptable. And all forms of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and psychological – will now be recognized. This gives courts, attorneys and individuals the tools to stop Domestic Violence, including coercive control.”

Connecticut Protective Moms

Steven Eppler-Epstein, the interim CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence said:

This comprehensive measure makes Connecticut the third state in the country to address coercive control in our family violence restraining order law. It addresses the real experiences of survivors with all forms of domestic violence, not just physical abuse, by ensuring court-ordered relief for the many non-physical tactics abusers use to gain and maintain control over their victims.”

Steven Eppler-Epstein, Interim CEO, Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence

California and Hawaii approved coercive control laws last year. New York, Maryland, and South Carolina are considering similar laws. Washington has passed a law prohibiting abusive litigation against domestic violence survivors. Some countries including England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, also have coercive control laws.

Some sections of Connecticut’s new law go into effect July 1, 2021, while other sections don’t go into effect until Oct. 1, 2021.

On and after July 1, each law enforcement agency must assign at least one officer to process requests from victims to apply for U Nonimmigrant Status or a subsequent form confirming that the victim of family violence has, is, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.

There’s a key part of this bill that doesn’t take effect until October 1: Restraining orders.

If a victim is using the coercive control definition, they can’t get a restraining order until October. The judicial branch said it needed time to change some of the procedures.

The Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Task Force 2019-2020 Report states that Connecticut has averaged just under 14 deaths resulting from intimate partner violence each year since 2000. It goes on to say that domestic violence homicide is not diminishing in our state, rather over the last decade the number has remained steady from year to year.

There also are domestic violence incidents and homicides that are not among intimate partners but other family members such as one in Middletown this year where a son is charged with killing his mother.

If you or someone you know needs help you can find resources at ctcadv.org or you can go directly to CTSafeConnect.org or call or text (888) 774-2900. Advocates are available 24/7.

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