In the United States, an average of twenty people per minute becomes a victim of domestic violence. In fact, domestic violence occurs so frequently that 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have been a victim of physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking by a partner that resulted in injury, fear, or concern for safety.
In 2016, there were 92,823 reports of domestic violence in the state of Michigan alone. This number is extremely large, especially considering that most occurrences of domestic violence go unreported. Survivors of domestic violence often feel powerless to report it, or they have a fear of reporting the incident. There are many factors that explain why it is difficult for a survivor of domestic abuse to report an incident and get the proper help necessary to get out of his or her situation. Some of these factors include: economic dependence on the abuser, fear of physical harm, fear of physical harm to children, social isolation, no alternative housing, feeling responsible for the abuse, lack of emotional support, or fear or guilt in making major life changes, among many others.
Although physical abuse is the most common form of domestic violence, domestic violence is defined by multiple types of abuse and control. The definition of domestic violence includes,
“willful intimidation … abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse,” and stalking.
New research and awareness of the complexities of domestic violence has influenced law makers in Michigan to propose new changes to legislation for survivors of domestic violence, in hopes that the law will better serve survivors in getting out of abusive situations and remaining safe. Under the new proposed program, survivors of domestic violence can request a state agency to keep his or her address confidential. When a person requests that his or her address to be classified as confidential, the state agency would receive their mail, and forward it to his or her residence. This system has the ability of keeping the survivor’s location hidden so that they are able to feel safe. For example, voter registration would be protected from public records, so that an abuser could not find the survivor’s address via public records.
Additionally, the proposed bill would require employers who provide sick leave to let employees use it to provide or receive assistance stemming from an incidence of domestic violence. Survivors could also receive unemployment benefits if they had to leave their job because of domestic violence. Many survivors have lost their jobs as a result of domestic violence, but this new legislation could help a victim of abuse get out of their situation quicker, because they are not afraid of being economically dependent on their abuser, or losing their job.
Therefore, these new proposed changes to the law could help many people who are trying to get out of an abusive relationship and remain safe after they leave.