Three new laws supporting domestic violence victims and survivors

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 8:32 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -Governor Polis signed three news laws that helps keep firearms out of hands of domestic abusers, funds victims services programs and ensure that court personnel have the training they need to best support victims and survivors of domestic violence.

SB21-292 gives $15 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to several different victims services programs that assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. These programs are the Domestic Abuse Program in the Department of Human Services, the Forensic Nurse Examiner Telehealth Program in the Department of Public Safety, and the Victims and Witnesses Assistance and Law Enforcement Fund, which sends resources to each judicial district.

Programs like these help survivors hold property while keeping their addresses confidential and their homes secure, promote rapid housing so survivors can pay for the costs associated with moving , and provide flexible financial assistance for a variety of basic needs. The funds also par for attorney fees in domestic violence court cases, and are channeled to anti-sexual assault and gender-based violence organizations across the state to provide community-based crisis intervention services and counseling.

“One of my top priorities when I came to the legislature was to make sure we were doing everything possible to support victims and survivors of domestic violence like me,” said Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. “For far too many, the COVID-19 pandemic made unsafe domestic violence situations even more dangerous, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done this year to address this urgent need.”

HB21-1255 strengthens and streamlines procedures for the surrender of firearms by someone who has a domestic violence-related protection order issued against them. Current law already requires domestic violence offenders who are subject to a protection order stemming from an act of domestic or intimate partner violence to forfeit their firearms and refrain from possessing or purchasing firearms for the duration of the order. This bill clarifies the way in which defendants must comply with this requirement and how courts must carry it out.

“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen first hand how our current laws can fail domestic violence victims when abusers avoid relinquishing their weapons. That ends now,” said Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield.

A recent analysis of 749 mass shootings committed over the past six years found that about 60% of them were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence. The Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board’s annual report found in the state, 60 incidents of domestic violence led to 70 deaths in 2019. That is a 62% increase from the year prior.

HB21-1228 clarifies and increases domestic violence training requirements for court personnel who frequently deal with cases related to domestic matters, such as custody disputes. Training for all personnel includes both an initial training and an ongoing annual continuing education. The training would encompass domestic violence and its traumatic effects on children, adults and families.

“Domestic violence isn’t always easy to identify and understand, but with the right training, our court personnel will be much better prepared to support victims in the courtroom,” said Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood. “Giving court employees who deal with custody disputes and other domestic matters these crucial trainings will help them carry out their jobs in a more effective way and hopefully save lives. I am grateful to the many families who lent their support and shared their stories throughout this process. This is a big victory for Colorado.”

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