The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

August 19, 2013

New domestic violence laws good start

Love is a relationship nurtured by care and respect.

Sadly, for more than 100,000 Illinoisans each year, love hurts, scars and kills.

Tougher laws and better education have helped bring domestic violence more into the public awareness, but can go only so far.

One in four adults is still likely to experience mental or physical abuse in a relationship at some point. Women are most frequently the victims, and domestic violence remains the leading cause of injuries to women in the United States.

Too often, though, emotions overrule logic and the victim returns to the abuser. Perhaps it’s a promise of such violence never happening again or the victim feeling there is no other option available. That continues a cycle that leaves the abuser likely to repeat the behavior.

Domestic violence in Illinois is a misdemeanor in most cases, regardless of how many times it has happened in the past.

Through House Bill 958, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Pat Quinn, the penalties will be increased starting Jan. 1. It is hoped this will send a message to abusers their actions will not be tolerated.

Under the new law, sponsored by state Rep. Emily McAsey of Lockport and state Sen. Pat McGuire of Joliet, domestic violence will become a felony if the person charged has a previous conviction for the same crime.

Four or more convictions could result in up to a 14-year sentence.

It was encouraging that a related bill addresses the growing problem of teen dating violence.

House Bill 3379 will require school boards to adopt policies on teen dating violence. Schools will be required to educate students about dating violence, and schools will have to have a course of action for if an employee becomes aware of a violent relationship.

Two or three decades ago, domestic violence was something that was simple, not discussed in anything more than hushed tones. That is not the approach that will bring about change.

Instead, attention is needed, discussion is crucial and punishment must be significant enough to stop future occurrences. These two new state laws will provide a good next step in the right direction.

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