Butler County lawmaker pushes for stronger domestic violence laws: What would change

Michael D. Pitman, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
·3 min read

Mar. 5—One in four women and one in seven men will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime, and a pair of Ohio lawmakers want to increase penalties for those crimes.

House Bill 3, known as Aisha's Law, was introduced on Feb. 4 in the Ohio House by primary sponsors Reps. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, and Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights. The bill would expand the definition of domestic violence to include strangulation, create a temporary emergency protection order that can be requested outside a court's normal business hours and create a study committee on the prosecution of domestic violence cases.

Boyd and Carruthers testified last week before the House Criminal Justice Committee on the bill named for Aisha Fraser, who was killed in November 2018 by her ex-husband following years of domestic violence in suburban Cleveland. In May 2020, the Ohio House unanimously passed an earlier version of Aisha's Law, but it failed to make it out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

"All Ohioans deserve to feel safe in their homes," said Carruthers. "Incidents of domestic violence take place in every corner of Ohio and are in far greater numbers than often realized."

In 2018, the Ohio Attorney General reported 38,475 domestic violence incident charges in Ohio. Of those charges, 1,112 were in Butler County, according to Carruthers' testimony on Thursday.

In 2020, YWCA Hamilton's Dove House provided services to 868 victims, up more than 100 from those served in 2019, said April Hamlin, YWCA Chief Operating Officer. She said the shelter "is consistently full, and our advocates work to find alternate placements for roughly 20 to 30 victims each month because our shelter is at capacity."

"We do believe the pandemic played a part in this increase," she said.

Advocates at Butler County's only domestic violence shelter assisted 767 callers last year, which is a 170 percent increase of calls received in 2018, Hamlin said.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser called the bill "very important" as victims of spousal abuse need support and deterrence.

"This bill certainly achieves that," he said.

Gmoser said prosecutors are often resistant to back bills that focus on certain events based on one classification of individuals, but not in this case, saying this "is a responsible approach of the legislature."

If the proposed changes, if approved, are adequate to address issues with Ohio's domestic violence laws, Gmoser said, "Only time will tell us that."

Boyd said she's worked on this bill for the past two years, including with domestic violence policy experts "and candid but unforgettable conversations with Aisha's family."

"This bill will not end domestic violence. It will, however, create a continuum of strengthened protections for survivors who are in the most lethal situations," she said.

Aisha's Law

Here are the provisions of House Bill 3, known as Aisha's Law, that is jointly sponsored by Reps. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights, and Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton: — Allows law enforcement (with the consent of a domestic violence victim) to request an emergency temporary protection order from a judge anytime the court is not open; — Requires the court to issue a temporary emergency protection order if there is probable cause to believe that the victim is in immediate danger based on allegations of recent domestic violence incidents; — Expands the offense of domestic violence to include strangulation — An individual is eligible to be charged with aggravated murder if the victim was a prior domestic violence victim at the hand of the alleged perpetrator; — Requires high-risk domestic violence victims to be referred to local or regional domestic violence advocacy services; — Provides funds for the training of law enforcement to use the newly mandated domestic violence risk assessment tool, which will evaluate both an offender's risk of re-offending and a victim's risk of lethal assault; — Creates a study committee on the prosecution of domestic violence cases.

Source: House Bill 3