Support Victims of Violence

In Top Story by Glori Norwitt

Connecticut has numerous statutes related to domestic violence and sexual assault, in order to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable. With the new legislative session underway, the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee supports strengthening statutes and administrative policy that assist domestic violence and sexual assault survivors to have safe, stable lives. The changes supported here are also supported by the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence and/or the Connecticut Alliance Against Domestic Violence.

First, the statute of limitations should be eliminated for sexual assault crimes. As has become clear from the horrific events that have come to light in the last year, such as the assaults of Olympic gymnasts by their team doctor, there are many reasons why victims do not report on a timely basis, including trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), fear or shame. The government’s inability to prosecute such offenders means they are free to perpetuate these crimes again and again, and that survivors are denied justice. For the majority of such crimes, Connecticut law provides survivors with only a five-year criminal statute of limitations. Our state has one of the shortest statute of limitations in the country, and the shortest in New England. Twenty-nine states have either no statute of limitations or a period of 21 years or more. The impact of sexual violence can last a lifetime — however, for survivors, the chance to seek help through our criminal justice system does not.

Second, Connecticut currently has a separate and distinct statute for “sexual assault in spousal or cohabitating relationships” which treats sexual violence differently based on whether the crime is committed by a spouse or significant other, as opposed to by a stranger. Sexual violence is the same crime, whether the assailant is a spouse or a stranger. Assaulting spouses should not receive favorable treatment. Deference should not be given to married or cohabitating partners that sexually assault. Victims should be protected, and not have lesser rights when they are assaulted by a spouse or partner. This statute should be eliminated.

Finally, the state should establish Paid Family & Medical Leave. Time to care for oneself or one’s family is an essential component to healing after surviving domestic violence or sexual assault. Economic barriers are the most common challenges that prevent survivors and their children from achieving safety. Workers should be empowered to take that time without the additional worry about the security of their jobs or paying their bills. Paid leave is critical to victim, economic and social justice. New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have all passed paid leave.

Connecticut is long overdue in adopting these straightforward statutory reforms, that have already been implemented in other states, to more effectively assist and support survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. Continued delay equals continued injustice. Now is the time.

The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides this column.