Joan Hartley

State Senator

Joan Hartley

Chief Deputy President Pro Tempore

An Independent Voice

May 19, 2021

Senator Hartley Joins Senate Approval of Domestic Violence and Hate Crimes Bill

State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) joined the state Senate to approve a bill that will expand 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.

Senate Bill 1091, “AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE…” passed the Senate and moves on to a vote in the House of Representatives.

“There are people all across Connecticut that will be helped by this bill. This bill will provide greater access to legal representation for victims of domestic violence. In addition, it will give more protection to victims when testifying in court proceedings,” said Sen. Hartley. “I want to thank the legislators, victims and advocates that helped craft this bill and urged its approval. I am proud to lend it my support.”

SB 1091 is the result of months of work 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. If passed by the House and signed into law by the governor, Connecticut would join at least 17 states that have already incorporated more than physical violence into the criteria necessary for issuing a restraining order.

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: Waterbury, Fairfield (Bridgeport), Hartford, New Haven, Stamford-Norwalk.

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.

Various aspects of the public policies included in SB 1091 have been supported by a broad range of state and national organizations, including: The Center for Family Justice; Child USA (National); CT Alliance to End Sexual Violence; CT Voices for Children; CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence; CT Legal Services; CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund; CWCSEO; Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury; Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund (National); Domestic Violence Crisis Center (lower Fairfield County); Greater Hartford Legal Aid; Legal Momentum, The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund; New Haven Legal Assistance Association; Prudence Crandall Center (New Britain and surrounding towns); Safe & Together Institute (Canton); and the YWCA of Greenwich.