More than 1,500 victims of domestic violence would have had a second chance to break the cycle of violence had a bill vetoed by Governor Ralph Northam been law for the past two years.
House Bill 2042, patroned by Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax, and Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, would have mandated a 60-day jail sentence for abusers convicted of domestic violence for a second time in 10 years.
According to statistics gathered by the Virginia Sentencing Commission:
- During fiscal 2017 and 2018, Virginia courts sentenced 1,513 abusers for the second time for domestic assault and battery.
- Under existing law, there is no minimum sentence and the defendant can be set free with just a fine or probation. 52 percent of such offenders got no jail time at all.
- Had they all received a minimum of 60 days in jail, costs to local and state government, a factor cited by the Governor in his veto message, would be just over $1.3 million per year statewide by 2025.
“When Governor Northam vetoed Del. Kathleen Murphy’s House Bill 2042, he did more than pander to rehabilitate his political legacy. He vetoed a bipartisan effort to ensure that men who repeatedly beat their wives go to jail. He undercut a years-long push to provide real protection for women and men trapped in abusive relationships,” said Del. Rob Bell, Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee.
The concept of the bill was simple — any abuser who is convicted of a second assault in a 10 year window must serve 60 days in jail. Virginia law gives abusers one chance to turn things around before even receiving a conviction. They can receive counseling. The next time they can receive a conviction, but there is no mandatory jail time. This bill says that if an abuser does it again — a third time — he must be removed from the house and sent to jail for 60 days.
During those 60 days, victims can begin the process of becoming survivors — they can find help, move out, get counseling, obtain a protective order — all the things that will help them move past the cycle of abuse and survive.
“It’s sickening to think that Governor Northam’s tied this to ‘Second Chance Month,’” said Del. Bell. “The people who need a second chance are the victims who deserve not to be assaulted. How many times should a woman have to be beaten before her attacker goes to jail?”
“These defendants have been given counseling, probation, and some have even served a short jail sentence, and yet they still continue to assault their victims,” Bell said. “Over and over the victims face terrorizing abuse. And yet in more than half the cases they don’t even go to jail. This is just wrong. ”
“Ralph Northam is a doctor. He knows the physical and emotional damage that can be done with a fist or a weapon, yet he still vetoed the bill to help his political career. He should be ashamed, if he’s still capable of that emotion,” Bell said.
“This fight isn’t over,” Bell said. “The General Assembly has fought in a bipartisan way to protect women and children from abusers. This was a Democrat Delegate’s bill. We will begin again the next time the General Assembly convenes, and will continue until Governor Northam or his successor signs this common-sense protection into law.”