Proposal in Missouri legislature adds more protection for domestic violence survivors

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 9:37 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - An effort is underway to further protect victims of domestic violence. Missouri House Bill 1699 removes some of the financial burdens on survivors.

The Victim Center’s Executive Director Brandi Bartel says the cost of court proceedings is usually a huge determining factor in those next steps. Not having to worry about those fees would remove a lot of barriers for survivors.

”They feel very outraged by having to pay those costs because they often feel like, hey, this happened to me,” Bartel says. “This was of no fault of my own. This was because another person chose to do a violent act and now the victim has to literally pay.”

If passed, the proposal allows a court to order one party to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees throughout the proceeding.

Bartel says this would be huge for victims, especially because there are so many other costs resulting from the crime. Bartel says some victims may not have their income.

“Victims often need to relocate to new residences,” Bartel says. “They often need to move daycares if they have children. They often have to go out and purchase a new cell phone plan. They often have medical bills.”

The proposal also states if a person is served with an order of protection and doesn’t show up to court, they are responsible to know the conditions that were set by the judge at the hearing.

Sponsor Representative Lane Roberts says that’s crucial.

“You can’t plead ignorance,” Rep. Roberts says. “You can’t say well I wasn’t there I didn’t know. You were notified of the hearing. If you’re not there that’s on you. This business of them being able to duck out of the responsibility by pleading ignorance would go away.”

Domestic violence survivor Janice Thompson says that would be a big step for survivors and take away some of the power abusers have.

“They know if I just don’t show up then that’s another day that the victim has to take off of work,” Thompson says. “That’s another day that they have to pay for. That’s another trauma for them.”

Another key piece of this bill is allowing a victim to testify in a video conference during the criminal proceedings.

Thompson says this will give victims a sense of safety so they don’t have to worry about facing their abuser.

“Maybe we have moved and our new location has been protected from our abuser,” Thompson says. “There’s nothing that prevents them from following us home after that court proceeding happens. Or just the simple vulnerability of being in the parking lot and having to make it from your car to the door of the courthouse.”

Missouri’s 2022 legislative session starts on Wednesday, January 5.

More information on other pre-filed bills can be found here.

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