Mae Flexer

State Senator

Mae Flexer

Deputy President Pro Tempore & Federal Relations Liaison

An Advocate for Us

June 4, 2021

Sen. Flexer Applauds Final House Passage Of Domestic Violence Bill

HARTFORD – State Senator Mae Flexer, who has spent years working with domestic violence organizations and advocating for the rights of domestic violence victims all across Connecticut, today applauded the House of Representatives for giving final passage to a bill she authored which makes Connecticut once again a national leader for the strongest laws responding to domestic violence.

The bill expands the definition of domestic violence in state law to include the “coercive control” so often exhibited in domestic abuse situations that follows a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom, autonomy and their human rights. 

The bill also establishes a new legal aid program to provide legal representation for victims of domestic violence who file restraining orders, and which changes the standard for a hate crime to allow someone to be charged if their assault on a person’s race, religion, country of origin was motivated “in substantial part” by those characteristics, and was not simply the “sole” motivating factor for that assault, as current state law requires.

“This legislation will save lives, plain and simple. The changes in this bill will be a lifeline to the more than a third of all Connecticut women who will experience some form of intimate partner violence or stalking in their lifetime. It’s the result of years of input and experience and advocacy to give victims the tools to leave abusive relationships and hold their abusers accountable,” Sen. Flexer said. “For years, our neighbors facing domestic violence have dealt with obstacle after obstacle in order to escape from an abusive situation. The bill eliminates many of those obstacles and it represents our commitment to the citizens of Connecticut to protect them, and to make their lives better.”

Senate Bill 1091 passed the state Senate last month with a 35-1 vote, and after today’s 134-8 House passage, it now heads to Governor Lamont for his signature into law.

SB 1091 is the result of months of work by Sen. Flexer to update Connecticut’s domestic violence laws to allow more favorable and fair treatment of victims seeking restraining orders, divorce, child custody, and other matters in family court. When signed into law by the governor. Connecticut will be the second state in the country to add coercive control to our statutes.

SB 1091 creates a more efficient restraining order process, allowing victims to email marshals the forms needed to serve a restraining order on the alleged abuser. Currently, the forms must be physically delivered by the applicant to the courthouse. The bill also allows victims the option of testifying remotely in court proceedings — and not in presence of their alleged abuser — if they have a hearing for a restraining order, a protective order, or a standing criminal protective order.

 The bill requires that a safe space be provided to victims of family violence in all court locations constructed after July 1, 2021; it allows the state Department of Social Services to expedite general assistance to victims of domestic violence by not factoring in the income of the alleged abuser when determining the amount of assistance available to them; it requires court officials to consider cash-only bonds when previous family violence court orders have been violated; and it establishes a process for tenants to change the locks on their apartments after obtaining a protective order or a restraining order. 

The bill’s creation of a new, so-called “Civil Gideon” program will, through the Connecticut Bar Foundation, provide grants to non-profits to provide legal services in the five judicial districts with the highest number of applications for restraining orders: Fairfield (Bridgeport), Hartford, New Haven, Stamford-Norwalk and Waterbury. 

In one study, victims of domestic violence with access to legal counsel reported substantially less revictimization.  Another study found that domestic violence victims with legal counsel had higher employment rates and used less government programs, thereby saving the sponsoring state twice as much as the program’s cost.  

The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its 18 member agencies were the key proponent of this national leading legislation.