October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a cause that focuses on a tragedy that sadly targets millions of Americans every year, including in many cases around the state of Ohio. During this month, there has been a concerted effort by legislators, state leaders and residents all over Ohio to help victims find help and treatment.
There have also been various pieces of legislation introduced in the Ohio House over the past few weeks that specifically address the need for greater protections for those who are affected by these awful crimes, which include stalking, rape and even homicide.
One particular bill would make it easier and safer for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to register to vote. As it currently stands, going through the process of registering to vote can sometimes put those victims at risk because they have to disclose their home address. Because that information then becomes public record, it makes it easier for others, including those who may wish to harm them, to access those details. Understandably, under current law, most people who have escaped such violent situations choose not to register to vote for this very reason.
House Bill 359, therefore, would allow victims of things like domestic violence, rape, sexual battery, stalking and human trafficking to register to vote and keep their home address confidential. The goal of this legislation is obviously to strike a balance between protecting victims, while also not requiring them to give up their most fundamental civic right—the right to vote.
Another bill, HB 362, was introduced in the House recently that would strengthen penalties for strangulation in domestic violence situations. While strangulation is obviously a crime, it currently only carries with it a misdemeanor offense. This piece of legislation would up the penalty to a third-degree felony.
As we have learned, strangulation is a very common tactic used by perpetrators of domestic violence. As one healthcare expert said during a press conference announcing the bill, “Strangulation is the ultimate form of power and control. One does not need to have a gun. One only needs to reach out his hand and he controls her very next breath.”
It is sad that these types of legislation need to be introduced at all. However, I am proud of the work the state legislature and so many other organizations have done to raise awareness of these concerns and to discuss what more we can do to help the vulnerable. I believe that these efforts will lead to safer families and greater protections for victims, both in the 91st House District and all over Ohio.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.