LANSING – As October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, members of the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus are urging their Republican colleagues that a package of bills aimed at combating domestic violence has languished in the Legislature for half a year. The measures would give survivors of domestic violence the tools they need to escape violent situations and seek justice.

“Domestic violence is a serious problem in Michigan, and people who are trapped in abusive relationships need assistance to restore safety and security to their lives,” said Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), who is the chairwoman of the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus. “The proposals we have introduced would make a real difference in the lives of people trying to escape violence and abuse. Surely Democrats and Republicans can set aside partisan differences to do the right thing for these people who need our help.”

Domestic violence continues to be a persistent problem in Michigan. According to a survey of Michigan’s domestic violence shelters and emergency service providers, on Sept. 17, 2013 – a randomly selected day in Michigan – there were more than 400 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines1. That day about 2,293 adults and children sought refuge in domestic violence emergency shelters, while shelters turned away another 173 people because of lack of space. On that survey day, 779 people in Michigan received other domestic violence-related services, such as counseling, legal advocacy and children’s support groups. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and on average, an act of domestic violence occurs once every nine seconds in the U.S. Children who live in violent homes also suffer, whether they are physically abused themselves or witness it happening to family members.

“Ending the problem of domestic violence and helping survivors rebuild their lives requires more than empathy – it demands action,” said Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), the chairwoman of the PWLC’s domestic violence task force. “Michigan women, children and men currently living with domestic violence are counting on us to be their voice in the legislative process, and there is no reason to delay action any further.”

The bills in the anti-domestic violence package of legislation would:

  • Require any employer who offers sick leave as a fringe benefit to allow the sick leave to be used for the purpose of providing or receiving assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking:  HB 4414 – Rep. Brinks and SB 256 – Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint).
  •  Ensure an individual is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for conduct that was a consequence of domestic violence: HB 4412 – Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and SB 252 – Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Meridian Township)
  • Prevent landlords and realtors discriminating against individuals on the basis of status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking: HB 4411 – Rep. Sam Singh (East Lansing) and SB 255 – Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor)

“While we have made significant progress in our efforts to address violence against women, we have much more work to do, especially considering that a staggering one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime,” said Sen. Warren. “We are championing this legislation because our citizens’ safety, and even their lives, depend on our action, and we look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues to pass this bill package as an important step toward ensuring that survivors of domestic violence have laws that help them rebuild their lives, not re-victimize them.”