I have recently started a blog, Politics & Pearls, as a place to discuss some of the real-life issues going on around us. Not necessarily issues that fall to the left or right, but issues that are affecting people from all walks of life – growing healthcare expenses, showing Jesus’ love in the midst of a country that is so divided, drug addiction, etc. With the heartbreaking Gabby Petito case and October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I think it’s time to discuss, and be honest about, domestic violence.
Growing up, I watched my Mama suffer abuse that, honestly, I wasn’t sure she would live through. One of my step-fathers was a volatile man, to say the least. He beat her weekly and even tried to kill her multiple times. I called the police once and then decided quickly to never do that again because the beating she took after they left was much worse than the earlier one.
Once I got out at 15-years-old, I vowed to never allow physical violence and abuse to ever be a part of my children’s lives. I kept that promise.
Unfortunately, since that time, I’ve learned there are a lot more forms of domestic abuse than someone laying a hand on you. Many forms in fact. I’ve listened as testimony after testimony in the Missouri Senate painted a very clear picture of the extent of these abuses. Technology, for instance, plays a new, and now a very significant role in domestic violence. Stalking, shutting you out of your online accounts, veiled threats via Facebook posts, just to name a few, are all intended to torture you. More often than not, it’s simply to make you pay for not staying and enduring the abuse.
Let’s just focus on stalking for our example. Having to worry that you’re being watched every moment is more than just unsettling. Your brain is constantly watching and wondering because you know that you are unsafe.
-Are they going to pop up behind you as you’re getting your things from your car after having to leave the office late?
-If so, will there be anyone nearby to help?
Or, things like getting alert emails 2 or 3 times a day from your credit card account, your bank account, and/or your cell phone account telling you that once again there have been multiple attempts on your password. Once this occurs, you have to stop what you’re doing and shift your time to changing passwords, staying on hold to find out what damage has been done, and once again explaining your situation to a call center representative on the other end of the line. You do all of this immediately, because you know if they did get in, they could cancel your cell phone service, your credit card, or clean out your bank account. All are things that you must have to pay your bills, manage work and take care of your family – simply put, just to function at the most basic level in our society. So, your days are spent trying to protect yourself and protect your family. Others may not be able to see the foot on your neck, but it is there just the same.
It’s exhausting. It’s unnerving. It is most certainly abuse.
Oh, and it’s also illegal.
Being a State Representative and now a State Senator, I have the ability to use the struggles that God has brought me through, to try to help others. Trust me, there is no other explanation as to why a little girl from the trailer parks who quit school at 15, would be elected and working in Jefferson City at our State Capitol. But I am here, and I’m going to use this microphone as long as he allows me to. With that being said, this past legislative session, with the help of some very courageous women, we were able to get some necessary updates to our laws on domestic violence.
Senate Bill 71, signed by Governor Parson on June 29, 2021, allows full orders of protection to be extended longer, and in cases where the court finds, after an evidentiary hearing, that the abuser poses a serious danger to the person who filed for it or to a child in the home; the order can be renewed from two years up to the life of the abuser. The evidence of serious danger must be there, so it’s certainly not decided lackadaisically, but our Judges now have options that they didn’t have in the past. If the abuser gets a full order of protection extended for their lifetime, there is a process to which they can petition the court for a modification, but it’s not going to be changed just because of their word. Not prior to two years, and only after a hearing and written findings that respondent has shown proof of treatment and rehabilitation – and that they no longer pose a threat.
Senate Bill 71 also specifically addresses any future spy-type technology. I’m going to list a bit of this definition verbatim from the Senate website summary – this is so good.
“This act modifies that definition [stalking] to mean two or more acts that serve no legitimate purpose including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through a third party follows, monitor, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to a person by any action, method, or device.”
In a nutshell, any future forms of “stalkerware” that comes down the pipe as technology grows, are now already covered – any “action, method, or device.”
Link for more information on this bill:
Our system is better than it was when I was a kid living through this. We now have advocates to help walk through some of the legal processes, protection orders can now be extended, and we have more female officers, judges, and prosecutors. Not knocking our male officers, prosecutors, and judges in any way – trust me – I’ve witnessed first-hand how wonderful so many are. But from my childhood experience up to now, we needed more balance. The Bible says, “iron sharpens iron.” Wisdom, intellect, and experience passed between male and female colleagues working together on issues as painful and personal as domestic violence, absolutely gives a better understanding of the many degrees, layers, and depths of these crimes. They happen to women and men – we are better served with perspectives from both.
So, we have improved. But, we can do more.
In the coming weeks, I’ll talk a little about our justice system when it comes to this issue. Low funding for our Prosecutor’s offices, our crime labs, and victim services all greatly affect the outcomes, and cause delays, in our domestic violence cases. That’s a big problem.
That discussion will be forthcoming – but for today – I need to hear from you. I would never use your name or case identification. You can send me an email anonymously if you prefer. But, if you have ever said, “This needs to be changed,” while trying to deal with our system on a domestic violence case, this could absolutely be your chance to help. With the next legislative session right around the corner, now is a great time to look at our current laws and see if changes are needed.
So, let’s get started…
I need your help and insight. Together, we can try to bring a little more peace to those who will surely come after us.