Domestic violence bills needed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 21, 2015


In our nation, a woman is beaten every nine seconds. One in four women will experience severe physical abuse in their lifetime. Annually, 10 million children witness their mothers being beaten inside their own homes. Approximately three women are murdered every day by those who promised to love them. Domestic violence does not discriminate, and it is prevalent in every demographic, race, sex, economic status, and every state—including our sweet home Alabama. As a wife, mother, grandmother, and Alabama’s First Lady, how can I see these statistics and not effect change?

There is help available to domestic violence victims in Alabama, but our laws and funding for services are among the weakest in the nation. The demand for services is high, yet our shelters are over capacity. Though we have fantastic law enforcement officers and prosecutors, stronger statutes are needed to hold perpetrators accountable. The overwhelming needs of domestic violence victims and their children have led me to the State House with my own legislative agenda aimed at strengthening domestic violence victim services and protection in Alabama.

This powerful piece of legislation is sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) and Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia). It proposes strengthened penalties for abusers while increasing resources and protections for domestic violence victims and their children. This legislation will provide law enforcement the tools they need to arrest abusers while increasing the number of victims able to receive emergency shelter. The bill includes strengthened orders of protection, with prescriptive rules and penalties, to ensure perpetrators are held accountable.

To improve the facilities in Alabama’s domestic violence shelters and increase bed space for victims, this legislation creates a Domestic Violence Capital Improvement Program to build, renovate or repair certified shelter facilities. This program would distribute funding through competitive grants based on need to ensure parity among domestic violence shelters throughout Alabama. I am pleased to announce that Gov. Bentley included $5 million in his recommended budget to launch these initiatives.

As First Lady, I am committed to using my platform as a voice for the voiceless. Please join me in defending our state from domestic violence by calling your legislators, following this effort and holding each other accountable. Today I ask each person to take action in your community to end domestic violence. I am asking each of you to get involved with your local domestic violence center. Ask them how you can be helpful in their efforts to create a safe haven for domestic violence victims and their children. It takes all of us to ensure every person in our state experiences our Sweet Home Alabama.


Dianne Bentley is First Lady of Alabama.