On June 18, 2015, the Senate approved legislation to create a new fund targeted at preventing domestic and dating violence in the state of Rhode Island. The bills were sponsored by Maryellen Goodwin and survivors, advocates and community members showed up in an act of solidarity to the State House to encourage movement on the bills.
Under the new legislation (2015-S 0650), the domestic violence prevention fund would be created through a $46 surcharge on marriage licenses. Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence will administer the fund, and the money will be used to pay for proven educational programs designed to prevent domestic and dating violence throughout the state.
Once this legislation is in place, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence will be required to convene an advisory committee for the fund. This committee will include; its own executive director,the director of the Department of Human Services, the director of the Department of Health, and the attorney general or their designees, and representative Rhode Island organizations that provide domestic and dating violence primary prevention services throughout the state. The committee’s primary responsibilities will include implementing preventative programs, developing criteria for granting and distributing funds and making recommendations to the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence regarding which programs to pay for.
The next step is for the legislation to advance to the House of Representatives. There, Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) is currently sponsoring identical legislation (2015-H 5651).
In 1994, President Clinton signed The Violence Against Women Act, into law. This legislation significantly changed the way that Americans think about sexual, dating and domestic violence. While this law was a critical step in the fight against this kind of violence, we still have a long way to go to keep people safe from this insidious type of violence.
As a member of Ten Men, I couldn’t be happier to see this kind of legislation gaining traction, but there is always more work to be done.