Victims’ Rights Commemoration: Focus on Domestic Violence

On Thursday, April 7, 2016, Director Sheila Creaton Kelly of the Victim Services Unit (VSU) recently hosted the second annual Victims’ Rights Month Commemoration.   The event was very well attended and is a testament to the DOC’s commitment to protecting the rights of victims and the important work that the VSU does on a daily basis.

Commissioner Carol Higgins O’Brien welcomed the attendees and spoke about the DOC’s zero tolerance policy for domestic violence.  The Commissioner also took the opportunity to ask staff to remember the victims.

The staff at Old Colony Correctional Center (OCCC) in Bridgewater received a special recognition at the event for their work to assist VSU throughout the year.  In addition, OCCC helped to facilitate a victim/offender months ago; this required a great deal of compassion and hard work from many staff.  Superintendent Lisa Mitchell and some of her staff were in attendance to accept the award.

Deputy Commissioner Kathie Chmiel spoke about the importance of having a balance between the deference we show the victims of violent crime and the offender rehabilitation.

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Danielle Sicard: Keynote Speaker

Assistant Deputy Commissioner Carol Mici recognized the VSU staff for their difficult job and acknowledged the importance of treating each victim as an individual.   Director Kelly echoed the sentiment and remarked that each case the VSU handles is unique and difficult and requires personalization.  Victims are often forced to relive perhaps the most difficult moments of their lives each time an offender is moved or considered for parole.  She read a review from a victim thanking the VSU from the bottom of their heart for taking the time to listen to their concerns.OCCC

The keynote speaker was Danielle Sicard, a survivor of domestic violence.  Ms. Sicard shared her personal experience and how she escaped an emotionally and physically abusive relationship that escalated to an attempt on her life.  Ms. Sicard shared her insight regarding how the violence she endured has permanently impacted her daily life and how it affected her family and relationships.  Ms. Sicard also gave the audience information regarding the myths that surround abusers while educating the attendees about the characteristics often found in abusers.  Her words were riveting and she graciously took time to answer all the attendees’ questions about her ordeal.

The event was truly poignant for all who attended.

Awareness…

DV Office

By Linda Harriman, Domestic Violence Coordinator

Research has shown that domestic violence awareness and police response has undergone fundamental changes through the past 10 years, but at the same time much work remains to be done because domestic violence too often remains the hidden crime committed behind closed doors.

Over the past five years there have been new Massachusetts laws put into place to help victims of domestic violence. These laws contribute to making the “leaving process” easier, because leaving a domestic violence relationship is not easy and statistics tell us that…- it take between 7-11 times a victim will go back to an abuser if the victim is not financial set to leave the relationship; – 48% of victims will not leave, or will return to, a violent relationship due to fear of what might happen to the animal if left behind; – Executive Order 491 states that domestic violence adversely affects employee productivity and causes absenteeism and employee turnover in the workplace.

The following are new laws or changes to currently laws. The long version can be found at www.mass.gov  and additional information can be found on the DOC Domestic Violence Office Intranet Page.

2010 – An Act Relative to Harassment Prevention Orders, G.L. c. 258E (“258E”), fills a critical gap in the law by providing victims of criminal harassment, stalking and sexual assault, regardless of their relationship with the defendant, with the ability to obtain harassment prevention orders against their perpetrators. Under G.L. c. 209A (“209A”), only those victims who are family members, reside in the same household, or have a substantial dating relationship with the defendant could obtain a restraining order; the new law has no such requirement. Please note 209A has not been amended and is still in full force and effect.

 2012 – An Act Relative to Domestic Violence and Animals. Language from S. 682 was included in S. 2192, which passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on August 2, 2012, It became effective October 31, 2012. This bill enables the courts to order the protection of an animal through existing specific statutes that authorize restraining orders or orders to vacate or stay away. What this bill does is provides protection for both human and animal victims of domestic violence. The link between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented in both study statistics and stories of abuse. Like children, pets are often used as pawns in domestic violence. Batters abuse animals for a variety of reasons – to demonstrate power and control, to retaliate for acts of independence, to keep a victim silent and to coerce a victim to return to stay in an abusive relationship.

2013 – Law S. 2402, “An Act Relative to Housing Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, Rape, Sexual Assault and Stalking.”  Chapter 402 of the Acts of 2012, amends Chapter 186 of the General Laws by adding seven sections. Victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and stalking have increased rights and protections under a new housing law designed to help them be safer in their apartments or get out of a lease if that is needed to escape a perpetrator.

 

For the following law, Employment Leave to Address an Abusive Situation, the Department of Correction already has a policy in place, the “103DOC238 Policy for the Prohibition of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Harassment”. This policy is based off the Executive Order 491, and sets precedence for companies in Massachusetts to follow. With the implementation of the new law, there were only minor changes to the department policy and the policy is currently under review.

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2014 – Employment Leave to Address an Abusive Situation, M.G.L. c. 149, s52E. relative to Employment Leave for Victims and Family Members of Abusive Behavior for employers who employs 50 or more people in Massachusetts. Employers must provide up to 15 days of paid or unpaid leave for a qualifying employee to seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance; secure housing; obtain a protective order from a court; appear in court or before a grand jury; meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official; or attend child custody proceedings or address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee. To be a “qualifying employee” the employee must be a paid employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or kidnapping or who has a family member who is a victim.

2014 – Bill S.2334 An Act Relative to Domestic Violence, significant changes to domestic violence law, including education for judges and prosecutors, new law and penalties for suffocation and strangulation, and much more.

REMEMBER

Domestic violence is a crime, it is also a choice! – No one deserves to be abused! – If you are in an abusive relationship, you are not alone.

If you are in immediate danger, dial 911.

The Domestic Violence Coordinator can be reached at:  office: 978-514-6589, cell: 508-963-1853 or through the Duty Station at 508-422-3481 and request the Domestic Violence Coordinator be paged, you do not need to leave your name, just your phone number where you can be reached. CONFIDENTIALITY IS ALWAYS UPHEALD!

Additional Resources:

Domestic Violence SafeLink – 877-785-2020

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Silent Call