CCADV works at both a state and national level to create and implement policy changes that will strengthen Connecticut’s response to domestic violence. Our staff works closely with elected officials and state agency leaders to ensure comprehensive polices that meet the needs of victims and hold offenders accountable.
During each session of the CT General Assembly CCADV takes an active role in drafting legislation and organizing testimony and advocacy on legislative measures related to domestic violence. We monitor dozens of additional bills that may impact victims in large or small ways. These issues may include child custody, divorce, spousal and child support, healthcare, social justice and economic justice.
Some of the key changes we’ve facilitated in recent years to domestic violence laws and policies in our state include:
- Securing funding for 24-hour staffing at all of Connecticut domestic violence shelters
- Strengthening civil restraining orders and criminal protective orders to ensure gun forfeiture by offenders, as well as extending the length of civil restraining orders
- Enhancing the definitions of strangulation, threatening and stalking to achieve greater protection for victims
- Implementing a statewide Model Law Enforcement Policy on Family Violence as the standard by which all law enforcement in our state respond to domestic violence
- Increasing housing protections for victims by allowing early lease termination when they’re in danger
Our staff works closely with and/or participates in several key policy committees including:
- CT Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence
- CT Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission
- CT Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council
- CT Trafficking in Persons Council
- National Network to End Domestic Violence Policy Committee
- National Resource Center on Domestic Violence Prevention Council
2021 Legislative Session
The 2021 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly concluded with a big win for survivors as Connecticut’s family court will now explicitly recognize coercive control as a form of a domestic violence and provide survivors much needed protection through our state’s family violence restraining order. Public Act 21-78 provides comprehensive protections for victims of domestic violence designed to address the real experiences of survivors with all forms of domestic violence, not just physical abuse. This new law expands Connecticut’s restraining order to address coercive control, establishes a grant program to provide low income survivors with access to legal assistance when making an application for a restraining order, and makes a number of other criminal and economic justice policy changes that validates victim experiences and empowers them to seek help.
A cornerstone of Public Act 21-78 is the expansion of the definition of family violence in Connecticut’s restraining order statute to address coercive control, which will facilitate court-ordered relief for the many non-physical tactics abusers use to gain and maintain control over their victims. Coercive control entails power and control over the victim through actions such as isolation, humiliation, intimidation, and domination. Connecticut joins California and Hawaii which both added coercive control to their restraining order laws in 2020 and 15 other states that have modernized their restraining order statutes to protect victims from non-physical forms of abuse. This provision goes into effect on October 1, 2021.
The new law also creates a legal representation program for low income survivors when applying for a restraining order. While we hope to see additional funding available in coming years to make this program accessible in all courts, the initial program will be funded in the five of the state’s larger courts (Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Waterbury). In 2018, an initial pilot of this program demonstrated positive benefits for survivors, some that went beyond just the restraining order as attorneys were able to get victims connected to domestic violence services and, in some situations, offer advice about other court-related matters in which the victim was involved.
Finally, on the criminal side, Public Act 21-78 takes an important step by amending the existing definition of “family violence crime” to include violations of court orders of protection and conditions of release issued in a family violence case. Traditionally, when a restraining or protective order issued for an act of family violence is violated, the violation itself is not considered a family violence crime. If in the process of violating the order there is an additional assault, threatening, etc., the arrest for the assault or threat would be considered a family violence crime. The mere violation of the order (regardless of whether there is an additional crime) has been shown to present a heightened risk for victims. Repeated violations of court orders often represent a course of conduct that equates to stalking which is intended to subject the victim to ongoing emotional distress. By making the violation itself a family violence crime, existing protections for family violence victims, such as next-day arraignment, will be utilized and offenders will be held accountable for their repeat actions.
Recent Legislative Changes
*The 2020 session of the CT General Assembly was canceled due to the pandemic so there is no summary available for that year.
Recent CCADV Policy Briefs:
Firearms & Domestic Violence: Protecting Victims at the Most Dangerous Time (Rev. February 2016)
Related Policy Memos:
Battered Women's Justice Project: Memorandum to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence on Whether to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence from Firearms Through Connecticut's Risk Warrant Statute or Through Connecticut Civil Restraining Order Statute as Ex Parte Relief (January 2016)
To learn more about the CT General Assembly, please read This is Your General Assembly.
For more information on CCADV’s policy initiatives, please contact Liza Andrews, Director of Public Policy & Communications, at (860) 282-7899 or firstname.lastname@example.org.