Though domestic violence laws are becoming stronger, law enforcement is still caught in the middle of going into a person’s domain, being invited only because of bad behavior. Officers have to deal with people, their emotions and where there might be a tremendous history.
In 2012, the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office responded to 1,062 domestic calls or an average of 2.9 calls a day. Since March, the sheriff’s office has responded to 3.3 calls per day, or 304 calls since the new year began.
But for the community at large, is domestic violence becoming like living near train tracks…you just don’t hear the noise anymore?
Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jessica Norris said on any given day 75 percent of her caseload is domestic cases.
Last year, the director of the victim/witness program, Patrice Sandridge, followed 210 domestic cases that came into her office.
So is this a growing trend in Louisa County?
“I don’t know that it is a growing trend,” Norris said. “A lot of times we see the same individuals come into court.”
According to Sandridge, half of the domestic cases she follows are repeat, while the remaining half are new cases.
In an effort to help victims of domestic violence, the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1004, a new domestic violence bill, which gained the support of Delegate Peter Farrell and Senators Tom Garrett and Bryce Reeves.
The bill stipulates that if a victim has either a family abuse protective order in effect or an order from the court showing her abuser has been convicted of a crime of domestic or sexual violence or abuse, the victim can be released of their obligation to a rental lease.
“I was a little surprised we didn’t already have that on the books and I thought it was important to get it on the books,” Farrell said. “ You don’t want anyone to feel trapped in their home when their safety should be their top concern.”
According to Christine Marra, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, victims of domestic or sexual violence will no longer have to choose between staying in an unsafe house or having judgements and bad credit scores following them to their next location.
“It was a protection we should have put on the books a long time ago,” Farrell said.
Other bills passed to help victims were House Bill 1643 and Senate Bill 1016. The bills clarify that a protective order entered due to a violation of an initial protective order shall remain in effect upon petition for or the pendency of an appeal.
The bills also includes family abuse protective orders issued in conjunction with a family abuse disposition among other protective orders that are not stayed upon appeal.
Another important bill that was passed is House Bill 1410, which prohibits any person who is convicted of assault and battery of a family member that results in serious bodily injury, sexual assault or stalking, from possessing or carrying a firearm or any other weapon for a period of five years following their conviction.
To read the entire story, see the April 4 edition of The Central Virginian.