LANSING, Mich., Oct. 28, 2021 — Members of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus (PWC) held a press conference today to unveil a package of bills to prevent domestic violence, support survivors and help protect survivors from further abuse. Since the beginning of the pandemic, domestic violence rates have soared, leaving shelters overburdened and resources stretched thin. Survivors, through no fault of their own, face discrimination, fear and other challenges long after their abuse has ended. The PWC believes that it is important to support, protect and offer resources to survivors.
“Domestic violence impacts nearly every aspect of a survivor’s life, and these bills take real steps to ensure they can protect themselves and rebuild their lives,” said state Rep. Laurie Pohtusky (D-Livonia), chair of the Progressive Women’s Caucus.
“We’re seeing an unprecedented rise in reported domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking,” said state Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township), sponsor of House Bill 5492. “Survivors deserve to have supports like paid medical leave, privacy rights and eviction protection. While we may not be able to erase the trauma endured by survivors, we can take common-sense measures to address some of the legal gaps and provide the resources and protections survivors need to begin rebuilding their lives.”
“More than 15 million children live in homes with domestic violence,” said state Rep. Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit). “Children who witness these acts of violence become victims, too. I used to be one of those children, not knowing if the dad who would come home would be the fun-loving dad or the dad who might put us out that night. Remember, the children are watching, the children are affected, and the children need help. As we look to bring more awareness and resources to the problem of domestic violence, let us not forget the children.”
Reported incidents of domestic violence have risen by 8.1% since the beginning of the pandemic. Those who were or are currently being abused face an increased risk of homelessness, poor birth outcomes and severe impacts on their health and life expectancy. In Michigan alone, there were 64,778 reported victims of domestic violence, up nearly 20,000 from two years ago. However, the true number is likely much higher, as some survivors are unable or unwilling to come forward.
“The Michigan Legislature has an opportunity to address a longstanding need,” said state Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy). “In 2019, before the pandemic and the rise in domestic violence, the Legislature was unable to bring real change to the way we treat survivors and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. This term, we must finally pass legislation and help survivors from across the state who are counting on us to help them heal from the physical and psychological damage done. We can’t let them down again.”
“If it weren’t for my child, I might have never spoken out; I might not even be here today,” said Nakira Howard, a domestic abuse survivor from Detroit. “This is something we have to deal with every single day of our lives. I, and so many other survivors, would sleep better knowing we have the protections provided by these bills.”
Similar bills in the package were introduced in 2019, but the Republican-led state House failed to take lasting action on the package.
- HB 5492 (Brabec): Updates the Paid Medical Leave Act of 2019 to include stalking, in addition to domestic violence and sexual assault, as a protected classification for the use of paid sick leave.
- HB 5493 (Cavanagh): Ensures an individual is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for conduct stemming from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- HB 5494 (Clemente): Prevents landlords and realtors from discriminating against individuals based on domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- HB 5495 (Stone): Provides eviction protection for survivors of domestic violence.
- HB 5496 (Kuppa): Extends privacy rights to adult victims, not just minors.
- HR 179 (Young): A resolution to declare October 2021 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the state of Michigan.
Bills to be Introduced:
- (Rogers): Provides an explicit provision in Michigan statute that makes it clear to law enforcement and prosecutors that they are permitted and encouraged to engage and initiate victim-focused outreach with victim service agencies.
- (Yancey): Alerts identifiable survivors if their abuser’s tether is tampered with and/or the abuser comes within a certain distance of the survivor’s home or workplace.