Domestic violence victim, advocate want new look at laws

By Holly Brantley - email

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) – Domestic violence advocates and survivors say it's about time lawmakers take another look at 30-year-old laws. Attorney General Chris Koster created a task force this week in the hopes of offering better protection for victims.

"My husband tried to kill me three years ago," said one survivor who wanted to remain anonymous. "He's been abusive before. He'll be in prison for 20 years."

Police and advocates say they're hearing stories like hers too often.  With that, our survivor says laws have frustrated her for years now and she's happy to hear the AG is creating a task force to take steps to change them.

She says stronger laws are needed.

"I always think how can they get off that easy," she said. "They just get a slap on the wrist."

She also would like to see more training and resources for law enforcement who are called to handle domestic violence fights.

"They should have video cameras and take statements and have digital cameras. They should take every call seriously," she said.

She says if victims know they have a fighting chance at justice, they would be more likely to come forward.

"I did it because I know I had to," she said. "But there's so many people that are just scared to death."

"It wasn't a crime to rape your wife in Missouri until 1991," said Allison Leonard of the Safe House for Women in Cape Girardeau. Leonard is the director of operations. "That should tell you something about where we're at and the changes ahead."

Leonard says she'd like to see a way for restraining orders to be served even without the address for the accused abuser.

"If you need protection that's a big problem," said Leonard.

She'd also like to see laws makers allow local law enforcement to take an accused abusers weapons away.

"There's a big push for that across Missouri," said Leonard.

"The need exceeds our means right now. For instance we have 22 beds at the shelter in Cape. In St. Louis, there's only 52 beds."

Counselor Charlie Harrison says women feel hopeless and that their abuser won't be brought to justice. She says justice means laws with tougher, quicker consequences.

"I think that is the number one thing that holds women back," said Harrison. "Women don't come forward because they are scared of the legal process."

Leonard plans to be at the first meeting next week. Attorney General Koster says he will release some of the suggestions from meetings before the next legislative session.

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