Missouri has taken several steps this year to help protect the rights of domestic violence victims, however, there is more to be done, Gov. Jay Nixon said last week.
“We won’t settle for the progress that we’ve made,” he said. “We need to continue to raise community awareness of the problem of domestic violence, work to reduce it from occurring and find ways to provide for those with unmet needs.”
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than 50 percent of domestic violence incidents still are not reported to police. Some victims may not recognize their victimization as a crime. According to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, last year more than 9,000 Missouri women and children were unable to find shelter at a domestic violence program due to lack of resources.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The SEMO Family Violence Council is raising money for the local domestic violence programs and women’s shelter and heightening awareness this month with scheduled balloon releases at area county courthouses, a 7 p.m. candlelight vigil Saturday in Desloge City Park Gazebo and fun races at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 31 at the Potosi Middle School.
Entry fee is $15. Make checks out to SEMO FVC and mail with entry form to Michelle Smith, USA Drug, 120 E. Karsch Blvd., Farmington, Mo. 63640. Call Smith at 573-760-9931 for more information or registration forms.
To learn more about SEMO Family Violence Council or the programs planned this month, call 573-358-3913 or visit http://www.semofvc.com.
Among the action taken on the state level that help victims of domestic violence:
• Amendments to Missouri’s Adult Abuse Act allow individuals as young as 17 to now file for orders of protection, instead of requiring an adult to file in their behalf. The change in the definition of an adult also means that adult protection orders can now also be sought against an alleged perpetrator who is 17 years of age.
• The Child Witness Protection Act gives judges the ability to tailor court procedures to help prevent children from becoming confused, intimidated or harassed when participating in court proceedings. The act permits limiting the duration of questioning of a child witness and allowing them to hold a toy or similar comfort item during testimony.
• Adoption of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), has expanded protections for parents subjected to domestic violence, including battered women who flee to Missouri from, or from Missouri to, another state as a result of abuse to them or their children.
• The adoption of Hope’s Law created a new felony charge for endangering the welfare of a child if an individual possesses methamphetamine in the presence or residence of the child. Previously, the individual had to be making or selling methamphetamine.
• Amendments to Missouri criminal law mean that for the first time domestic violence convictions in states other than Missouri now qualify to be used as prior offenses in Missouri courts. This will allow more offenders to be classified as prior or persistent offenders and therefore to be eligible for stiffer prison sentences.
• Crime victims may now request and receive a current photograph of an offender prior to the offender’s release from the Missouri Department of Corrections. To request a photo, a victim should contact the Department of Corrections’ Office of Victim Services at 573- 526-6516.