States Work to Stop Domestic Abuse.

In a welcome bit of state-based good news, lawmakers and authorities in New Jersey and Massachusetts are mulling new laws that would increase the rights and protection of domestic-violence victims, and provide law-enforcement officers with new, pro-victim guidelines for bringing domestic-violence perpetrators to justice. Here is New Jersey:

One measure in the three-bill package would impose tougher bail conditions for those accused of violating domestic violence-related restraining.

The others would extend protections for domestic abuse victims who have had to break leases and create a self-defense justification — in some cases — for victims who use force to protect themselves from abusers.

The Judiciary Committee approved all three measures Thursday, and they now head to the full Assembly for its consideration. Dates for those votes have not yet been scheduled, but officials say it could happen by month’s end.

And here is Massachusetts:

State public-safety officials and anti-domestic violence advocates are putting the final touches on standardized guidelines designed to aid Bay State cops in a crackdown on batterers — while warning that decreased funding could mean the erosion of hard-earned gains.

The new guidelines call for officers to: make arrest and prosecution the “preferred” way to address domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Base the decision to arrest on evidence of a crime—not a victim’s desire to testify or prosecute. Respond to a call, even if a follow-up request is made to cancel. Obtain statements from everyone at the scene or anyone who might have knowledge of the assault.

Unfortunately, even with new laws and guidelines, police departments have to contend with the fact that domestic violence is woefully underreported. Still, any step toward helping women and stopping abusers is a good one.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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