Gov. Walker strengthens domestic violence laws

New pieces of legislation send hope to victims

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is cracking down on domestic violence in the state.  

On Wednesday Walker signed three bills into law that will strengthen existing domestic violence laws. All three bills are designed to give law enforcement officials more tools to stop domestic violence.

A local advocate said this issue is not going to go away, but the new pieces of legislation will send a message of hope to the victims.               

“These bills don’t happen out of nowhere,” said Liz Beard, development director of New Horizons in La Crosse.

Action is often sparked by tragedy. In October 2012 an act of domestic violence left three women dead and four others injured after a worker’s estranged husband opened fire at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

About a year and a half later, Walker is responding by strengthening current domestic violence laws.

“This legislation will offer some more tools so the system doesn’t fail victims of domestic abuse who are seeking to get restraining orders, to seek to get protections,” said Walker.

In response to the spa shooting, officers will be required to document every domestic disturbance call they receive, even if no arrests are made. They will also be required to inform victims of their legal rights and options, such as victim services.

“It’s so important that victims know there’s help out there, that they are not alone. Advocates do immediate safety planning, we can get people to the shelter if they are unsafe, we can help them go through their options,” said Beard.

Another bill will create a process to remove guns from the abuser during an injunction.

“It’s shown that firearms when a domestic violence dispute is happening are very unsafe. Victims are at risk for a homicide if firearms are in the home,” said Beard.

A final bill would add stalking to the list of actions that qualify as domestic abuse.

“Stalking is a crime where there is really high risk for victims. It’s very concerning,” said Beard.

Although domestic violence will never go away, many believe the state is headed in the right direction.

“There’s still work to be done, but it’s a message that perpetrators will be held accountable and that politicians are paying attention to it,” said Beard.

The new bills will also allow prosecutors to use the suspect’s misconduct charges from the past 10 years as evidence as long as they are relevant to the case.   

All three bills are effective immediately.