Guest Blog: Dating Violence Legislation

spotlightThis week, we will be hearing from AmeriCorps member and Iowa State University sophomore, Evan Abramsky. Evan began with us recently, and has begun to work with me on issues around domestic violence and child welfare. Thanks to Evan for his blog and his help with the program!

“When considering domestic violence, it’s easy to neglect to consider the issue in its entirety—as a pervasive issue that can afflict any form of intimate relationship, anywhere. According to data provided by LoveIsRespect.org, an organization created through a partnership between the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, “[e]ight states currently do not include dating relationships in their definition of domestic violence,” one of which is the state of Iowa.

However, it appears that is about to change. Earlier this month, the Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill, labelled as Senate File 300, which would update the state’s criminal code so as to formally criminalize domestic and sexual assault within a dating relationship. So far, the bill has received bipartisan support in the General Assembly and its chances in the House of Representatives appear optimistic, at least.

How would this bill impact the legal opportunities of domestic violence survivors in seeking justice, one might ask? As of now, domestic violence that occurs in dating relationships is punishable only under the state’s civil code, meaning criminal penalties cannot be levied on offenders by a state prosecution; instead, a survivor seeking to prosecute her abuser under the law is left on her own to seek private justice through a lawsuit in the state’s civil courts.

This creates a series of unnecessary social and economic hurdles and burdens for survivors, simply because the domestic violence did not occur in a married or co-habitating relationship.”

-Evan Abramsky