Bill would increase sentences for domestic violence

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(Host) After a year of testimony and research, the Senate Judiciary Committee has drafted a bill designed to reduce domestic violence in Vermont.

The proposal would lengthen sentences for people convicted of domestic violence. It’s also designed to better protect children and the victims of violence while also funding prevention programs for youth.

Dianne Jabar is legal issues coordinator for the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and she supports the proposal.

(Jabar) "I think this initiative tries to be very comprehensive in addressing multiple needs. In the past we have addressed domestic violence piecemeal by focusing perhaps specifically on the abuse prevention law or changes to the criminal statute."

(Host) Winona Ward is founder of "Have Justice Will Travel," an organization that helps battered low-income women and their children.

She says one of the important protections in the new bill is a requirement that Family Court judges consider the safety of children and victims when deciding child custody and visitation.

(Ward) "This has never been part of our statutes in the past and I think will be very important in considering parent-child contact in future divorce and separation cases."

(Host) Advocates say they’re hopeful the bill will be adopted this year.

It’s pending in the Senate Finance Committee now and would still have to be considered by the House.

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