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New state domestic violence laws

A number of new state laws went into effect Oct. 1, including two that address the needs of victims of domestic violence. One allows for the electronic monitoring of high-risk offenders. The other allows victims of family violence to break a lease without financial consequences.

Lori Rivenburgh, director of Women’s Support Services in Sharon, said the new laws give victims important new tools.

“The electronic monitoring is a pilot program,” she said. “It’s only going to be used in three cities: Hartford, Bridgeport and Danielson. It’s based on a program that’s been tried in Massachusetts and in Chicago that has been fairly successful.”

Victims of high-risk offenders will be able to ask the court to electronically monitor the offender. If he or she comes within a specific distance of the victim, both the victim and the court will be notified.

“The service is going to be available at any one time for 21 high-risk offenders,” Rivenburgh said.

Rivenburgh said that while the program has been successful in other states, she’s waiting to see the results in Connecticut before giving it her full endorsement.

“One of the things we’re worried about is how the victim will respond to it, whether it causes more anxiety,” she said.

The new law also says that protective orders must now be sent to the law enforcement agencies where the victim lives, where the victim works and where the offender works. Previously they only had to be sent to police where the victim lives.

The second law allows a tenant to terminate a rental agreement without penalty once violence in the family has been documented.

“A lot of times, when a woman is trying to leave, she’s stuck in a lease and she’s going to lose that money and not be able to get a new apartment,” Rivenburgh said. “This is really great news for victims because it will allow them to move quicker, with less financial hardship.”

Another provision of the law requires the state Department of Health to produce at least one public service announcement a year that addresses teen dating violence and requires teacher in-service trainings to offer information about teen violence.

The new law also directs the fees collected from processing marriage licenses and death certificates to domestic violence agencies.

“We’ll get a little money depending on how many people get married each year,” Rivenburgh said. “That’s helpful, with funding cutbacks.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In addition to the annual candlelight vigil held in Salisbury on Oct. 5, WSS is sponsoring Purple Tie Tuesday on Oct. 26.  Men and women can wear purple neckties or purple ribbons to signal their support.

For additional information on this event and others planned for the month of October, call  WSS at 860-364-1080.

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