Mae Flexer

State Senator

Mae Flexer

Deputy President Pro Tempore & Federal Relations Liaison

An Advocate for Us

April 28, 2022

Sen. Flexer Leads Senate Passage of Bill to Prevent Online, Workplace and Domestic Abuse

HARTFORD – Longtime domestic violence opponent state Senator Mae Flexer led the unanimous and bipartisan passage in the state Senate this evening of a bill designed to prevent abuse and violence on online dating sites, in the workplace, and in the home.

Senate Bill 5, “An Act Concerning Online Dating Operators, Online Child Grooming and Harassment, Domestic Violence Training and Protections For Victims of Family Violence and Domestic Violence,” was co-written by Sen. Flexer in her capacity as a member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Flexer said the bill’s provisions are, in part, a response to domestic violence lessons learned during the past two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, when staying at home and the increasing use of personal computers created new challenges for those who work to end domestic violence.

“Over the course of the past two years, it has been incredibly difficult to be someone who is in a relationship where there is violence,” Sen. Flexer said. “At a time when people may have seen their homes as a safe haven in the midst of a pandemic, far too many people found themselves dealing with an even more dangerous situation in that home. This bill is a strong response to that, and more.”

“This bill builds on several years of legislative action that have made Connecticut one of the best states in the country when it comes to domestic violence protections,” she added.

Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 5:

  • Places a child advocate in each of the state’s 18 domestic violence agencies to provide services to children and families experiencing domestic violence.
  • Creates a new program to help people identify, report, and prevent online abuse such as harassment, cyberstalking and doxing.
  • Updates workplace discrimination standards and removes the existing requirement in state law that workplace sexual harassment has to create “substantial” interference with a victim’s work, or that such harassment must be “severe or pervasive,” in order to be actionable.
  • Requires all state employees to complete an hour of training and education on domestic violence, as well as what resources are available for victims.
  • Creates a working group to develop recommendations by the end of 2022 regarding new laws on child grooming, including acts to coerce a minor into child pornography, prostitution or trafficking.
  • Adds victims of family violence to the list of protected classes to prohibit discrimination regarding employment. Employers would also have to provide ‘reasonable accommodations’ to victims of family violence so that divorce, legal actions, temporary homelessness, financial difficulties, or depression don’t become a barrier to maintaining their employment.
  • Requires dating apps to let their users know whether or not background checks are conducted on site users, and to provide informational warnings about how to stay safe online. According to Pew Research, 37% of dating app users under the age of 35 reported unwanted conduct from dating site users; 35% received unprompted sexually explicit content, and 9% were threatened with physical harm.

For example, the bill would require a dating app’s website to contain as a minimum this safety awareness warning: “Use caution when communicating with a stranger who wants to meet you. You should not include your last name, electronic mail address, home address, phone number or any other identifying information in your online dating profile or electronic mail messages or communications until you feel comfortable with the other user. Stop communicating with anyone who pressures you for personal or financial information or attempts in any way to coerce you into revealing such information. If you choose to have a face-to-face meeting with another user who you met on the online dating platform, tell a family member or friend where you will be meeting and when you will return. You should not agree to be picked up at your home. Always provide your own transportation to and from your date and meet in a public place with many people around. Anyone who is able to commit identity theft can also falsify a dating profile.”