Thursday, August 12, 2010

New law proposed to allow victims of abuse to leave

There is a new law being proposed that would allow victims of abuse to break their leases early in order to flee their abusers. Normally, a tenant must give 60 days notice before leaving - and that's after the initial lease period has expired. Under the new law, an abuse victim would be allowed to break the lease early, giving only 28 days notice to their landlord in the form of a letter and proof of the abusive situation (ie. a letter from police stating that a domestic violence investigation is taking place, or a restraining order or peace bond).

Some are saying this still leaves the onus of responsibility on the victim. I think that is true in part, but I think this law gets much closer to a real solution than most. Rather than longer jail times, new procedures for police or what have you, this gives a victim of domestic violence a much greater chance of escaping the violence. Punishing the abuser will only get you so far, especially if they are only convicted on minor charges such as uttering threats or forcible confinement, for which the maximum penalty is 18 months imprisonment. There need to be more systems in place to help victims escape their situations; it's very difficult to launch a full criminal investigation, as it can be hard to prove that violence or abuse take place at all (especially in an "ungrateful woman just lying to get revenge!" society), so other avenues need to be available.

If passed, this law isn't going to change the world for victims of abuse. But it will give them more hope, and a greater opportunity, of escaping that abuse, and that's a big step in the right direction. We just have to make sure we keep walking.

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