COLUMBUS- State Representative Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) today announced that House Bill (HB) 3, ‘Aisha’s Law’, her bipartisan priority legislation with Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) to change how law enforcement agencies respond to domestic violence cases and create a continuum of protections for victims of domestic violence that are in extreme risk and lethal situations, passed out of the House Criminal Justice (12-0) and House Finance Committees (31-1). The bill is named for Aisha Fraser, a former Shaker Heights sixth-grade teacher who was brutally murdered by her ex-husband, former state Rep. Lance Mason, in Nov. 2018 following years of domestic abuse. The bill now awaits an expected House floor vote tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20.
“Aisha’s Law represents nearly 18 months of interested party meetings with dozens of stakeholders, multiple redrafts, some very heart breaking calls with survivors and advocates and eye opening calls with various centers of excellence on domestic policy across the country. I promised Aisha’s family, her friends, her colleagues and her students that I would leave no stone unturned. This is a victory for domestic violence survivors across Ohio,” said Boyd.
The committee votes comes after a virtual lunch and learn on domestic violence resources during the COVID-19 pandemic hosted by State Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, (D-Akron), Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) and Assistant Minority Whip State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) on Friday, May 15.
Panelists on the lunch and learn included:
- Mary O’Doherty, Executive Director, The Ohio Domestic Violence Network;
- Alexandria Ruden, Attorney, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland;
- Diona Clark, Motivational Speaker, Advocate, and Educator.
“Throughout the pandemic, I have advocated to the Governor and his administration to provide additional protections and supports for domestic violence shelter workers and victims. Last week, my Democratic colleagues and domestic violence advocates joined me on our first lunch and learn for domestic violence resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. I amso appreciative to all who took part in this lunch and learn,” said Boyd.
“The biggest takeaway from the conversation is that domestic violence is not going away, in fact, as the panelists described, the number of cases reported are staying the same or increasing, and the severity of those cases are also on the rise. We must address this crisis head-on— there is no time to wait. To the panelists, thank you all for the work you do, and to all the survivors who watched, I want you to know that you are loved, please don’t give up, and we are here for you.”
Highlights from the lunch and learn included:
Current Status of Domestic Violence in Ohio
- Boyd highlighted conversations she has had with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS). Employees of domestic violence shelters are now considered essential workers by ODJFS, which allows them to receive the benefits and services afforded to essential workers, including access to pandemic childcare.
- The Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) served 90,000 survivors and children in 2019 and sheltered 9,000, nearly 4,000 of which were children.
- ODVN reported domestic violence calls to law enforcement varied by cities; Columbus reported 20 percent increase in March, Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center in Cleveland rose 40 percent, Dayton reported a decrease in calls. Social isolation puts victims in greater danger so more people are calling for help, but the stay at home order also puts more stress, responsibility on victim of domestic violence, so they may not have time to call.
- Ruden stated that while filings may be down, the severity of those filing is going up, with increases in strangulation reported. Enacting HB 3, ‘Aisha’s Law’, is important to addressing severity of domestic violence cases. Ohio is the second to last state to enact strangulation to domestic violence laws.
- Clark shared ways that survivors of domestic violence can become empowered and find a way out. Those experiencing domestic violence should find someone they can confide in for help. Research organizations in your community that provide services for survivors of domestic violence and become knowledgeable so when survivors are ready they can find someone to help.
- Safety plans: what are the things that a survivor is going to need when they are ready to leave, since they may need to leave in a hurry. This includes having all your paperwork (Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, etc.), a bag with clothes, money that is put aside and financial records, and anything else important. When the time presents itself, you will be ready.
If you are a survivor of domestic violence looking for resources and referrals in Ohio, you can visit ODVN.org or call 614-781-9651.
If you are in an emergency, call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Editor’s Note: News article detailing increase in domestic violence cases during stay-at-home orders is linked here and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network report is attached.